Investigation to reopen into rape claims against French minister

Investigation to reopen into rape claims against French minister
Budget minister Gerald Darmanin. Photo: AFP
Appeals judges in Paris have ordered the reopening of an investigation into rape allegations dating from 2009 against France's budget minister, a judicial source and lawyers told AFP on Thursday.

A woman has claimed that Gerald Darmanin, 37, raped her after she sought his help in having a criminal record expunged.

Sophie Patterson-Spatz also accuses the minister of sexual harassment and abuse of power.

The Paris appeals court was instructed by the Cour de Cassation, France's highest court, to review the 2018 dismissal of charges against Darmanin after a preliminary investigation which saw the minister questioned, but without his accuser being able to confront him.

The judges ruled on Tuesday that the investigating magistrate who declined to pursue the case in August 2018 had been wrong to rely solely on the results of the preliminary probe, a judicial source said.

The magistrate had found that the investigation uncovered no evidence for the allegations.

The new ruling had no bearing on the validity, or not, of the woman's clams, the source added.

Lawyers for Patterson-Spatz said in a statement that they hoped the ruling would lead to a “proper investigation, which will seriously examine the elements of the complaint. “

The minister's legal team, for its part, said the ruling concerned nothing but a technicality, adding that Darmanin has lodged a complaint for slander.

In February 2018, charges against Darmanin were dismissed after the Paris prosecutor's office said a preliminary probe had failed to establish “the absence of consent on the part of the complainant” or that she was acting “under constraint, threat, surprise or any sort of violence towards her.”

Darmanin had furiously denied pressuring Patterson-Spatz into sex in return for a promise to help her clear her record.

Prosecutors have also dismissed allegations by another woman who accused him of using his position to ask for sexual favours while mayor of the northern city of Tourcoing between 2014 and 2017, claims he also denies.

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