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17.02.2019 Europe

Former bodyguard to French president files legal complaint overrecordings

Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP
LISTEN FEB 17, 2019

Former Presidential security aide, Alexandre Benalla has filed a legal complaint against 'persons unknown' over French news website Mediapart's publication of secret audio recordings made last year between himself and a former policeman, at the same time the pair were under investigation into May Day protest violence.

On 31 January, Mediapart published extracts of conversations between the two men, recorded on 26 July in undisclosed conditions, in which they refer to the 'support' they had from President Emmanuel Macron in the 'scandal'.

At the time of the recordings, both men were under investigation as part of an inquiry into violence during 1 May demonstrations in Paris where the pair were filmed roughing up protesters.

Revelations over the summer that Macron's office knew about their involvement but attempted to cover up the matter led to an outcry by political opponents.

In the recordings, the pair also discussed the legal problems face by Crase, who is suspected of having been involved in outside security work while still employed as a government official.

Benalla's lawyer Jacqueline Laffont told French public news agency France Info that her client's complaint targets “the illegal use and possession of devices and techniques used for surreptitious recordings”, “invasion of privacy” and “misrepresenting an individual”.

"And what if a foreign power was behind this?" asked Laffont who is calling for the authenticity of the recording to be confirmed.

Prime Minister's security head resigns On 4 February, a tribunal in Paris opened a preliminary investigation into “invasion of privacy” and attempted to get a search warrant for Mediapart in order to recover the secret recordings.

In a further twist in the affair, on 7 February, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe's head of security, Marie-Elodie Poitout, announced she was resigning.

This followed media revelations that she and her partner had welcomed Benalla to their home in July.

Poitout denied any wrongdoing, saying she and partner Chokri Wakrim had simply met with Benalla whom they knew socially. But she asked to be moved to another job so as not to stir up further political controversy.