VALENCE, France (AP) — A 28-year-old man who slapped French President Emmanuel Macron will be tried on Thursday, facing possible jail time and a fine if found guilty of assaulting a public official.
Damien Tarel was quickly arrested after the swipe Tuesday that caught Macron in the face with an audible thwack as the French leader was greeting a crowd in southeast France.
Tarel told investigators that he struck without thinking, the prosecutor’s office said. He is due Thursday afternoon in court in Valence, in France’s Rhone Valley.
The charge of violence against a person invested with public authority is punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros ($54,000).
Another man arrested in the ruckus that followed the slap, identified by the prosecutor as Arthur C., will be judged at a later date, in 2022, for illegal possession of weapons.
The prosecutor’s office said as well as finding weapons, police who searched the home of Arthur C. also found books on the art of war, a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf,” and two flags, one symbolizing Communists and another of the Russian revolution.
Neither Tarel nor Arthur C., also 28, had police records, the prosecutor said.
Videos showed Macron’s attacker slapping the French leader’s left cheek and his bodyguards pushing the man away during a quick meet-and-greet with members of the public, who were kept back behind traffic barriers in the winemaking town of Tain-l’Hermitage.
The attacker was heard to cry out “Montjoie! Saint Denis!” a centuries-old royalist war cry, before finishing with “A bas la Macronie,” or “Down with Macron.”
Tarel told investigators he was close to the yellow vest economic protest movement that shook Macron’s presidency in 2019 and also held right- or ultra-right political convictions without being a member of a party or group, according to the prosecutor’s office.