The man who was filmed slapping French President Emmanuel Macron opposite earlier this week was sentenced to four months in prison.
During an emergency trial, Damien Tarel, 28, was guilty of violence against a person invested with public power following the incident on Tuesday in the wine-growing town of Tain-l’Hermitage. Macron was arranging a meeting with members of the public and Tarel was quickly arrested after the coup.
“When I saw his friendly, lying gaze, I felt disgust and had a violent reaction,” Tarel told a court, according to the Associated Press. “It was an impulsive reaction … I was surprised by the violence myself.”
While Tarel said he and his friends had considered bringing an egg or custard pie to throw at the President, he said they had given up on the idea – and insisted the slap wasn was not premeditated.
“I think Emmanuel Macron represents the decline of our country,” Tarel added, without further clarification.
During the incident, Tarel was heard shouting “Montjoie! St Denis ! a secular royalist war cry, before ending with “Down with Macronie” or “Down with Macron”.
The court in Valence, in the south-east of the country, sentenced Tarel on Thursday to four months in prison and an additional 14 months suspended, while banning him from holding public office and holding weapons for five years.
Tarel told the court he supported the yellow vests economic protest movement that rocked Macron’s presidency in 2019. He told investigators he had right-wing or far-right political convictions without being a member of Macron’s presidency. ‘a party or group, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Macron declined to comment on the trial on Thursday, but insisted that “nothing justifies violence in a democratic society, ever”.
“It’s not that bad to get a slap when you go to a crowd to say hello to people who have been waiting for a long time,” he said in an interview with BFM-TV. “We must not make this stupid and violent act any more important than it is.”
At the same time, added the president, “it should not be trivialized, because any person holding public authority has the right to respect”.
Another man arrested in the uproar that followed the slap, identified by the prosecutor as Arthur C., will be tried later, in 2022, for illegal possession of weapons.
The prosecutor’s office said that in addition to finding weapons, the police who raided Arthur C.’s house also found books on the art of war, a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf “, and two flags, one symbolizing the Communists and the other the Russian Revolution.
Neither Tarel nor Arthur C., also 28, had a criminal record, said the prosecutor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.