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French court frees naked hiker in landmark case

Published: 11 Sep 2013 17:56 GMT+02:00

A naturist who liked to stroll naked in the woods of the Dordogne region of southwestern France has been acquitted of sexual exhibitionism charges.

A court in the town of Perigueux accepted the 52-year-old man's defence that he was no flasher after hearing testimony that he had once suffered an eye-watering injury after jumping into bushes to spare the blushes of a passer-by.

The accused's lawyer, Tewfik Bouzenoune, hailed the judgement as a victory for naturists everywhere.

"The court has made a distinction between sexual exhibitionism and naturism," he said.

"This was not about naked rambling, it is about people practising naturism with precautions.

"One of the precautions my client took was to always have clothing to hand so that he could hide his private parts. He wasn't trying to be provocative."

The charges against the man were brought after a complaint in February by a female walker who spotted the unclothed man from a distance and then, accompanied by her grandson, approached him to make sure he really was naked.

Jacques Freeman from the naturist association, APNEL (Association pour le promotion du naturisme en liberté) told The Local on Wednesday that the verdict will persuade other wrongly accused nudists not to fight for justice through the courts.

"The verdict is really important because at the moment naturists who are arrested simply plead guilty and pay the €300 fine because they cannot afford to go to court. But the court's ruling means that a naked hiker can only be arrested if there is proof they were intentionally provocative."

In an opinion piece for The Local earlier this year Freeman said that "naturists in France were being criminalised just for taking their clothes off".

“Naturists are being criminalized in France but being naked is not a crime. If you punch an old lady you can get a year in prison and you can get the same sentence just for taking your clothes off. It’s not right.

"France is the number one tourist destination in the world for naturists with 2 million coming every year but at the same time we have this problem with the law."

After acquitting the man on Tuesday, the court on Wednesday rejected a request by his lawyers for the case to be referred to a higher court for a review of the law surrounding public nudity and sexual exhibitionism, as naturist organisations have been demanding in several European states.

"We should be able to get naked anywhere in France": CLICK HERE to read more of Jacques Freeman's interview with The Local.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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