Gunman Released After Assassination Attempt Against French President

A French far-right activist has been released from prison seven years after attempting to assassinate then-President Jacques Chirac in a Bastille Day attack, a judicial official said Saturday.

Maxime Brunerie was convicted of attempted murder after he pulled a rifle from a guitar case and shot at Chirac on July 14, 2002. The attack took place during a military parade on Paris' famed Champs-Elysees avenue. Brunerie was subdued by onlookers as he tried to turn the weapon on himself. Chirac was unhurt.

Brunerie, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison, was released earlier this month but remains under judicial supervision, the judicial official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity according to judicial policy.

Such early release is allowed under French rules, if certain conditions are met.

The state attorney during his trial, Philippe Bilger, said on France-Info radio that he thought Brunerie was looking to rebuild his life. He added, "I simply hope that he will not be in the same intellectual and moral state as he was before the criminal act he committed."

Bilger said during the trial that Brunerie was in a "borderline" mental state at the time of the attack.

Brunerie told authorities he conceived the plot because he wanted to go down in history with a "shocking" act. Defense lawyers argued that Brunerie had psychological problems and deserved treatment rather than a criminal conviction.

Judicial officials insisted that Brunerie carefully planned the attack. They alleged he bought the gun a week before the parade, practiced shooting and emptied his bank account to buy gifts for his friends.