PARIS—A former security advisor of French President Emmanuel Macron arrived at a Paris court on Monday to go on trial accused of roughing up May Day protesters in 2018, in what triggered the first major political crisis of Macron’s mandate.
Macron and his Elysee palace team were sharply criticized at the time for not sacking Alexandre Benalla immediately. He was fired when a video of the incident emerged six weeks later.
Macron was accused of being too slow to deal with a member of his inner circle.
Macron rejected accusations, saying the Elysee had not sought to protect Benalla.
The video showed Benalla manhandling protesters during a police-led crowd control operation. While allowed in as an observer, he ended up taking part in the operation, wearing police-marked clothing. He has admitted to “making a mistake”, but said he just wanted to help police and did nothing illegal.
Benalla, 30, is also on trial over allegations that he illegally kept and used diplomatic passports. He told a Senate committee that he thought he was allowed to use them, but had made a mistake.
Benalla told a senate inquiry in September 2018 that much of his role had involved liaising between Macron’s political office and the official security body charged with protecting the president, known as GSPR and made up of top-level gendarmes and senior police officers.
“I am not a thug,” he said.