Damien Tarel attacked Emmanuel Macron when he was shaking hands with members of the public during a walk in the French region of Drome.
A French court on Thursday sentenced a man who shot French President Emmanuel Macron in the face this week to 18 months in prison, 14 of whom have been suspended.
Damien Tarel, a 28-year-old medieval history buff, has been in custody since Tuesday’s assault, which a prosecutor said was “absolutely unacceptable” and “an act of deliberate violence.”
Tarel attacked Macron when the French president shook hands with members of the public during a walk in the French region of Drome.
Tarel said several days before Macron’s visit to the region, he had planned to throw an egg or a tart at the president, but added that the slap was not premeditated.
“I think Macron represents a lot of our country’s decline,” he told the court, according to BFM TV.
“If I had challenged Macron to a duel at dawn, I doubt he would have responded.”
Tarel faces a charge of assault against a public official, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($ 54,750).
Macron dismissed the assault, calling it an “isolated event,” and vowed to continue to meet voters despite concerns about his personal safety.
Asked about it again during an interview Thursday with BFM TV, he called it a “stupid and violent act” and suggested it was a consequence of the poisonous atmosphere found on social media.
“You get used to the hate on social media that normalizes,” he said.
“And then when you’re face to face with someone, you think it’s the same thing.” It’s unacceptable. ”
Leaders from across the political spectrum have come together to condemn the slap, which many see as a symptom of the fragile political climate and a decline in the norms of public debate just weeks before regional elections and 10 months from now. from the presidential election.
“The political climate is turning into vinegar. It is dangerous what is happening, “Clementine Autain, a former left-wing parliamentarian and regional election candidate, told France Info.
Others saw the assault as a sign of how Macron, a former reformist investment banker, continues to inspire visceral rejection by many French people.
His presidency was shaken by the “yellow vest” anti-government protests in 2018-2019, which were driven in part by anger over his economic reforms and by his abrasive personality.
Macron, 43, whose personal ratings have risen recently, is expected to seek a second term next year.
Polls show him holding a close spot on his main rival, far-right leader Marine Le Pen.