Benalla: hear under high voltage

From Véronique MARTINACHE

Paris (AFP) – Preceded by small pike and repeated alerts from the executive, the hearing of Alexandre Benalla, the main character of the affair that poisoned the summer of Emmanuel Macron, opens in an explosive context Wednesday in the Senate.

The Senatorial Committee of Inquiry is to hear the former head of state's assistant from 08.30 am accused of assaulting demonstrators on the sidelines of Parades on 1 May.

Audition will be carried out in the aftermath. Vincent Crase, squadron leader in the operational reserve of the gendarmerie, filmed next to him during these incidents and was also charged.

At the time of the incident, the two men and deputy chief of staff of the presidency and employee of the presidential party De Republiek were on the move. They were both fired after the news leaked in the press.

Revealed in July by the newspaper Le Monde, the case was called "a storm in a glass of water" by President Macron. But far from fading, it continues to occupy the front of the stage and in recent days has given rise to strong exchanges between the executive and senators on the question of the separation of powers.

"Political instrumentalization", the president's wish to "take possession of a power of accusation", "personal political campaign" of the committee chairman, senator (LR) Philippe Bas: the accusations have fluctuated among the members of the government. As for the Macronist senators, minorities in the palace of Luxembourg, they announced that they would boycott the hearing.

The convocation of Mr. Benalla, 27 years old, for the Senate, has itself started the ordering paper. The former chargé de mission initially suggested that he wanted to hold an audition. Then he no longer preferred. Before finally conceding, "forced", at the request of senators, to avoid "lawsuits", while Philippe Bas charged the passage of "little marquis".

– "Torpedo" anti-Macron –

In which state of mind will the hearing of Mr. Benalla take place, "approved" by three Frenchmen in four, according to an opinion poll from Ifop that was published by the parliamentary public senate on Tuesday?

Already according to parliamentary sources it should not be behind the camera, while Alexandre Benalla's lawyer, Laurent-Franck Liénard, had mentioned such a possibility.

Philippe Bas and Jean-Pierre Sueur, the committee's co-rapporteur, emphasize that they have only one goal: to expose possible "dysfunctions" in government services. And that by not violating the prerogatives of justice, which would be contrary to the separation of powers.

But for Mr. Liénard, "the field of possible questions will be very limited" for senators, because, he said, his client "can not answer questions that would be asked about the investigation, and the committee can not ask questions about it. research ".

According to the lawyer Alexandre Benalla is used by "many people" as "the torpedo to swing on Emmanuel Macron".

The senators, who have already held many hearings, including family members of the head of state, will also hear Yann Drouet on Wednesday, former chief of staff of the police chief of Paris.

At the center of their concern was the question of the protection of the president and the role that Alexandre Benalla, who had joined the Emmanuel Macron security team during the presidential campaign, could keep, despite the established "rules" of the institutions.

The protection of the president is indeed "the responsibility of a service of the state", emphasizes mr. Bass. It has been transferred to two elite units, the security group of the presidency of the republic (GSPR) and, within the Elysee, the military command.

"We are approaching recognition" that Mr. Benalla "played a role in security," said Mr. Bas after the final hearings. But "there is always a refusal to admit that he could have a role of close protection," he noted. Despite "a license to carry weapons" and many images where we see the side of the president.

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