Suit alors! Sarkozy grabbed in walkabout attack
Published 01/07/2011 | 05:00
FRENCH president Nicolas Sarkozy was attacked and almost knocked to the ground while shaking hands on a walkabout yesterday.
As a relaxed looking Mr Sarkozy greeted onlookers, a man's hand suddenly shot out from the crowd over a barricade, firmly grabbing the president by the shoulder of his suit.
With a powerful tug, Hermann Fuster, a 32-year-old municipal theatre worker from Agen in the Lot-et-Garonne region, pulled the French leader towards the stunned crowd from behind the security fence.
Almost forced to the ground, Mr Sarkozy, a keen runner and cyclist who follows a strenuous exercise programme, managed to stay on his feet and recoil.
His bodyguards then swiftly intervened, arresting the assailant, who was unarmed. Mr Fuster was detained and questioned. The Elysee said it would not be pressing charges -- which could have resulted in a sentence of up to three years in prison. Quizzed by journalists afterwards, Mr Sarkozy said: "No problem, no problem."
The scuffle took place as Mr Sarkozy was on a rare "meet and greet" stroll with a crowd in the town of Brax, after attending a meeting of mayors.
This is the first time Mr Sarkozy has been physically assaulted at close quarters, but he has been subjected to a string of unpleasant verbal onslaughts.
In 2008 he was involved in a slanging match with a member of the public at a farm show in Paris, telling him: "Get lost, you poor cretin" after the man refused to shake his hand, crying: "Don't touch, you're dirtying me."
Mr Sarkozy threatened to have a fist-fight with a fisherman who heckled him in 2007.
High-rise housing estates around major cities are out of bounds for Mr Sarkozy, where he is at risk of being targeted by projectiles. Anger in the estates stems from when he described a gang of young delinquents in a housing project as "rabble" while the interior minister. Nationwide suburban riots followed shortly after.
He has also received death threats in the form of bullets sent to the Elysee Palace.
The latest attack was the last thing the deeply unpopular Mr Sarkozy needed ahead of next year's presidential elections. (© Daily Telegraph, London)