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Last Updated: Monday, 6 December, 2004, 18:37 GMT
Chirac attacker faces Paris court
Arrest of Maxime Brunerie
Brunerie was arrested at the scene
A man accused of shooting at the French president has told a court he wanted to commit a "historic, scandalous" act.

Maxime Brunerie, 27, described as a right-wing activist, faces charges of attempted murder in a Paris court.

He was arrested after allegedly firing a hunting rifle as Mr Chirac rode in a convertible along the Champs-Elysees during a Bastille Day parade in 2002.

He is being held in the psychiatric ward of a prison in Paris. If found guilty, he faces a life sentence.

Mr Brunerie wore a grey jumper and metal glasses as he confirmed his name to Judge Martine Varin.

"My name is Maxime Brunerie. I am a student," the AFP news agency reported.

Answering questions about his personality, Mr Brunerie told the judge: "I wanted to do something historic, something scandalous.

"I had mucked up my life. I didn't want to muck up my death."

He denied becoming involved with far-right organisations through political motives.

Instead Mr Brunerie described himself as an unhappy person, and said he became interested in the extreme right through a desire to join the most "morally contemptible" part of society.

"When I was with them I didn't think of my existential problems," he added.

'Extremist propaganda'

Prosecutors say Mr Brunerie was attempting to assassinate Mr Chirac when he pulled a rifle from a guitar case at the annual parade on 14 July 2002 and aimed at President Chirac's motorcade.

Bystanders pushed the tip of the rifle into the air as the shot went off, and police wrestled the gunman to the ground.

As he was being apprehended, Mr Brunerie tried to shoot himself.

He is alleged to have carefully planned the attack.

Judicial officials say he bought the gun a week before the parade, had practised shooting in the eastern Burgundy region and had emptied his bank account to buy gifts for his friends beforehand.

French police say he had taken part in several far-right demonstrations, and that "extremist propaganda of a neo-Nazi nature" was found at his home near Paris.

At the trial, Mr Brunerie's defence team is expected to question three psychiatric evaluations that led investigating judge Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy to rule that he was fit to stand trial.

A verdict is expected on Friday.

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