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POLITICS

France to launch coronavirus inquiry into politicians

A French court will open an inquiry into former prime minister Edouard Philippe and two cabinet ministers over their handling of the coronavirus crisis, a prosecutor said Friday.

France to launch coronavirus inquiry into politicians
Former French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe Photo:LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

The inquiry will be led by the Law Court of the Republic (CJR), which deals with claims of ministerial misconduct, said senior prosecutor Francois Molins.

Along with Philippe, who was replaced Friday in the first stage of a government reshuffle, the ministers under investigation are former health minister Agnes Buzyn — who stepped down in February for an unsuccessful bid to become mayor of Paris — and her successor Olivier Veran. Veran was health minister during the peak of the crisis.

It is not clear if he will keep his job in the reshuffle expected to be finalised in the coming days.

The CJR has received 90 complaints and examined 53 of them.

It considered nine complaints admissible, which will form the basis of the inquiry. The complaints were filed by private individuals, doctors, associations and even prisoners. The inquiry will consider whether Philippe, Buzyn and Veran neglected their duties in the face of a disaster.

The coronavirus outbreak has left 29,875 people dead in France so far, and has sparked anger against the government over a lack of protective equipment in the early stages of the pandemic.

France is not the only country where legal proceedings are possible against current and former ministers over the coronavirus pandemic.

Prosecutors questioned the Italian prime minister and two ministers last month over their handling of the coronavirus crisis as part of an investigation into whether more should have been done to save lives.

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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