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The unemployed man accused of slapping French President Emmanuel Macron across the face has appeared in court as he faces a fine of up to €45,000 (£39,000).
Medieval martial arts enthusiast Damien Tarel, 28, said he is a right-wing sympathiser who had acted because the Macron represented 'all that was rotten' with France.
He told the court in Valence that he initially considered throwing an egg or a cream tart at the politician.
Instead, during Mr Macron's visit to the southeastern Drome region, he struck him and was instantly arrested.
"I think that Macron represents very neatly the decay of our country," he told the court, according to BFM TV. "If I had challenged Macron to a duel at sunrise, I doubt he would have responded."
Security stepped in after French President Emmanuel Macron was struck
(Image: Via REUTERS)
Mr Macron later described the attack as an isolated incident and said violence and hate were a threat to democracy.
Tarel faced a charge of assault against a public official, an offence which carries a maximum sentence of three years in jail and a 45,000 euro fine.
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He struck Mr Macron on Tuesday after the president came over to greet a small crowd of onlookers after visiting a professional training college.
It happened during a trip ahead of presidential elections in 2022.
Mr Macron reached out Tarel who was standing behind a security barrier, Tarel then shouted "Down with Macronia" and slapped him on the left side of his face.
Damien Tarel, 28, said he is a right-wing sympathiser
He could also be heard shouting "Montjoie Saint Denis", the army's battle cry when France was still a monarchy.
"It's a patriot's slogan," he was quoted as telling the court.
The unemployed 28-year-old told police investigators that he had been close to the anti-government "yellow vest" protest movement which shook the Macron presidency, and held ultra-right wing political beliefs.
Acquaintances of Tarel described a man who loved period role-play and was not a trouble-maker.
He blames the politician for the country's "decay" – but now faces a huge fine
(Image: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The prosecutor said he was not a member of any political or militant group.
Tarel was arrested along with a second man from his hometown of Saint-Vallier.
Police found weapons, a copy of Adolf Hitler's autobiographical manifesto Mein Kampf and a red flag with golden sickle and mortar that is the international symbol of the communist movement in the second man's home, local prosecutor Alex Perrin said.
The second man will not face any charges related to the slapping but will be prosecuted for illegal possession of arms in 2022.