A French court on Thursday sentenced a man who slapped French President Emmanuel Macron across the face this week to a prison term of 18 months, 14 of which were suspended.
Damien Tarel, a 28-year-old medieval history enthusiast, has been in custody since the assault on Tuesday which a prosecutor called "absolutely unacceptable" and "an act of deliberate violence".
The court in the southeastern city of Valence convicted Tarel on a charge of violence against a person invested with public authority.
Tarel acknowledged hitting the president with a ``rather violent'' slap. ``When I saw his friendly, lying look, I felt disgust, and I had a violent reaction,`` he told the court. ``It was an impulsive reaction... I was surprised myself by the violence.''
While he said he and his friends had considered bringing an egg or a cream pie to throw at the president, he said they dropped the idea _ and insisted that the slap wasn't premeditated.
``I think that Emmanuel Macron represents the decline of our country,'' he said, without explaining what he meant.
Tarel told the court that he supported the yellow vest economic protest movement that shook Macron's presidency in 2019. He told investigators that he held right- or ultra-right political convictions without being a member of a party or group, according to the prosecutor's office.
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).
Macron wouldn't comment Thursday on the trial, but insisted that ``nothing justifies violence in a democratic society, never.''
``It's not such a big deal to get a slap when you go toward a crowd to say hello to some people who were waiting for a long time,'' he said in an interview with broadcaster BFM-TV. ``We must not make that stupid and violent act more important than it is.''
At the same time, the president added, ``we must not make it banal, because anyone with public authority is entitled to respect.''