Police arrest man behind videos that ended Paris mayoral run

PARIS (AP) — A controversial Russian performance artist who claimed responsibility for releasing sex videos that brought down a candidate for Paris mayor was detained by police Saturday, the prosecutor’s office said.

Pyotr Pavlensky was questioned at a police station on Paris’ Left Bank about a separate case involving “violence with a weapon” on New Year’s Eve, the Paris prosecutor’s office said. The nature of the incident wasn’t immediately clear.

Pavlensky, who fled Russia and was granted asylum in France, has had trouble with the law before. He was convicted in January 2019 of setting fire to a Bank of France branch and damaging its facade in 2017.

He was sentenced to a year in prison, plus a two-year suspended sentence. However, the judge allowed Pavlensky to walk free because he had already spent 11 months in pretrial detention.

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The appearance of the sex videos on an internet site created by Pavlensky pushed the mayoral candidate representing President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party to withdraw from the race Friday, a month before the election.

Pavlensky created a special site to post the material, believed to have been extracted from cellphone exchanges.

The candidate, Benjamin Griveaux, did not directly acknowledge a connection to the explicit videos. But his withdrawal sent shock waves through the political establishment of a country that has a tradition of keeping the private lives of public servants out of view.

Pavlensky left Russia in 2017 after being told of rape accusations against him. While in Russia, he set a fire in front of the Russian federal security agency and nailed his scrotum to Moscow’s Red Square in what he said was a metaphor for Russian political apathy.

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