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CRIME

Parisian street artist accused of rape, sex assault by dozens of women

French authorities have opened an investigation into Parisian street artist Wilfrid A, known for his uplifting graffiti, after 28 women filed complaints accusing him of rape and sexual assault, prosecutors told AFP on Wednesday

Parisian street artist accused of rape, sex assault by dozens of women
The Sacré Coeur Basilica of Montmartre, north of Paris. Photo: AFP

Twenty-five women aged between 19 and 49 lodged a collective complaint on Tuesday, seen by AFP, in which they described Wilfrid A as a “sexual predator” who played on his fame as part of a well-oiled routine to assault his victims over the course of a decade.

The collective complaint was filed after three other women filed individual complaints.

Neon, a news and trends magazine aimed at young people, had published on June 22nd the accounts of sixteen women, some of whom were underage at the time, describing rape and sexual assault

The street artist became a local star after the Paris terror attacks in November 2015 when his most famous tag “Love is everywhere” became a symbol of Parisian resilience and hope.

But feminists have taken to crossing out the word “love” on the murals and replacing it with “rapist”.

Wilfrid A would walk up to mostly very young women in the street, often in the famous Montmartre artist quarter where he lives, the women alleged in the complaint.

He would compliment them and suggest they model for his photographs or become the face of his brand.

Once they arrived at his home, the street artist would offer them alcohol or drugs. He would then become aggressive or violent, they said. Some of the victims also accuse him of drugging them.

“Wilfrid A appears to have been on a tireless even frenetic hunt for very young women for at least a decade,” Neon alleged in its article.

Investigators opened an inquiry on June 26th, shortly after the publication of the magazine's initial article.

“An inquiry doesn't begin in a magazine but in a police station,” Wilfrid A's lawyer Joseph Cohen-Sabban told AFP.

“My client is willing to explain himself to investigators,” Cohen-Sabban said, adding that the street artist has been threatened since the publication of the article.

The investigation comes as a controversy surrounds the appointment this week of Gerald Darmanin as interior minister, owing to an investigation into a claim he raped a woman in 2009.

The minister vehemently denies the accusations.

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CRIME

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

A French court on Tuesday ordered the partial release of a Corsican nationalist who has served 24 years in jail for the 1998 murder of a top French official.

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

Under the ruling, Pierre Alessandri will be allowed out of jail to work for a landscaping company in the daytime and will be granted a full conditional release in a year if he behaves well.

The relaxation of Alessandri’s conditions of detention came amid tensions between the Mediterranean island’s pro-autonomy leaders and the French state, after a fellow Corsican detained in the same case was killed in a French prison in March.

Alessandri and a third Corsican detainee were transferred from mainland France to a jail in Corsica in April after the murder of Yvan Colonna.

The Paris appeals court granted Alessandri “a probationary partial release” of 12 months from February 13, the prosecutor-general Remy Heitz said.

If he behaves well, he would then be granted “conditional release” for another ten years, he said.

Alessandri’s lawyer Eric Barbolosi hailed the ruling as a “great relief”.

“For the first time in a court of appeals, the magistrates made a decision based on the criteria necessary for a conditional release, not the particular nature of the case,” he said.

Alessandri had served enough time to be eligible for such a release by 2017, and had already petitioned to be freed three times.

But national anti-terror prosecutors objected, and an appeals court barred his release.

The country’s highest court then quashed one of these decisions, ordering the Paris appeals court to re-examine it.

Colonna, a former goat herder, was announced dead on March 21 after an Islamist extremist who accused him of blasphemy strangled and suffocated him in a prison in the southern town of Arles in mainland France.

He was detained in 2003 after four years on the run, and sentenced in 2007, and then again in 2011, to life in jail over the killing in 1998 of the French government prefect of Corsica, Claude Erignac.

The killing was the most shocking of a series of attacks by pro-independence militant group FLNC.

Alessandri and another nationalist, Alain Ferrandi, had already been sentenced to life in jail in 2003 over the murder.

Ferrandi, who was transferred to the same Corsican jail, has also requested to be released on parole, and a decision is due on February 23rd.

Colonna’s murder sparked violent protests in Corsica.

It galvanised the nationalist movement and led President Emmanuel Macron’s government to offer talks about giving greater political autonomy to the territory.

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