French interior minister to face parliament over Macron's bodyguard

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb waves as he leaves after a weekly cabinet meeting on July 18, 2018 at the Elysee palace in Paris. (AFP)
Updated 21 July 2018
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French interior minister to face parliament over Macron's bodyguard

  • Gerard Collomb will be questioned by members of the lower house on Monday and by the Senate on Tuesday.
  • Alexandre Benalla, long a fixture at Macron's side, was taken into custody for police questioning on Friday, after an amateur video was released showing him at the May 1 protests in Paris wearing a riot helmet and police tags while off duty.

PARIS: French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb will be questioned by lawmakers next week as the government faces mounting criticism of the way it disciplined President Emmanuel Macron's top bodyguard who was filmed beating a protester on May Day.
Collomb will be questioned by members of the lower house on Monday and by the Senate on Tuesday.
Alexandre Benalla, long a fixture at Macron's side, was taken into custody for police questioning on Friday, after an amateur video was released showing him at the May 1 protests in Paris wearing a riot helmet and police tags while off duty.
Benalla had initially been suspended for 15 days and allowed to return to work. Under pressure, the French presidency said on Friday it had decided to begin dismissal procedures.
Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary. The Paris prosecutor has also opened a preliminary investigation.
In the footage, which was released on Wednesday by Le Monde newspaper, Benalla can be seen dragging a woman away from a protest and later beating a male demonstrator. On Friday, French media released a second video which showed Benalla also manhandling the woman.
Another man who appears with him in an amateur video was also taken in custody.
Three other police officers were also suspended on Friday, including two suspected of passing footage of the events to Benalla earlier this week, and were taken into custody.
Critics of Macron have called the president's delayed response a characteristic sign that he is out of touch.


France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

Updated 25 March 2019
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France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

  • The ban will become effective starting April 1
  • The airlines were also banned by Germany since January

PARIS: France has banned flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, accusing it of transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, diplomats said on Monday, after heavy US pressure on Paris to act.
The decision to revoke Mahan’s license to operate in France was made after Germany banned the airline in January.
Paris had considered revoking its license more than two years ago under the presidency of Francois Hollande, but had backed down because it feared it could harm relations just after a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was signed in 2015.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Washington has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.
“We knew of their activities from our own intelligence services and after the German move it was a question of credibility,” said a French diplomatic source.
The French ban on the airline, which had four flights a week to Paris from Tehran, takes effect from April 1. The airline’s website is no longer taking reservations and calls to its offices in Paris were not answered.
Tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as President Emmanuel Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s ballistic missile tests, regional activities and a foiled attack on an Iranian exile group in France, which Paris says Iranian intelligence was behind.
Both countries only reappointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals last month after more than six months without envoys.
There are no plans at this stage to ban another airline — Iran Air — said one diplomat.
Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Greece.
European countries have been under sustained US pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of an international nuclear non-proliferation treaty reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Along with Iran, the other signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — are still trying to keep it alive and set up in January a mechanism to allow trade with Tehran and circumvent US sanctions.