French interior minister summoned by judge in ongoing rape investigation

France's interior minister Gérald Darmanin has been summoned by a judge as part of an ongoing rape investigation.

French interior minister summoned by judge in ongoing rape investigation
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. Photo: AFP

The minister was summoned on Tuesday by a judge as a material witness in a long-running rape case against him.

The hearing was postponed on the request of his lawyers due to a due to a “major professional constraint”.

No charges were laid against the minister and no date was given for the rescheduled hearing. 

What is the allegation?

He is accused of raping a woman in 2009 after she sought his help to have a criminal record expunged while he was a legal affairs adviser with the UMP, the ancestor of France's main right-wing party, the Republicans.

Darmanin maintains they had consensual sex.

What stage is the case at?

The case has been thrown out multiple times, but in June 2020 appeal judges in Paris ordered a new investigation after the woman approached France's highest court.

It is this new investigation that summoned Darmanin as a témoin assisté (material witness) into the allegations against him.

Will this affect his position as interior minister?

The case had already been reopened when, in July, Darmanin was promoted from junior finance minister to interior minister.

There were widespread protests over his appointment at the time, and questions whether someone under investigation for rape allegations can and should be the country's “top cop.” As interior minister, Darmanin is nominally in charge of the country's police forces.

READ ALSO OPINION France's interior minister is becoming a danger to Macron and France's reputation

Women's groups staged multiple protests, saying his appointment was inappropriate.

A member of Macron's team defended the appointment by telling AFP the criminal case was evolving “in the right direction” and “presented no obstacle” to Darmanin's elevation.

President Emmanuel Macron explained on French television that he had a “relationship of trust, man-to-man” with Darmanin, a phrase many criticised for being tone deaf.

What does Darmanin say?

The minister himself has strongly denied the allegation of rape, saying the sexual encounter was consensual.

Darmanin himself has complained of a “manhunt” and told a regional newspaper that it was hard for a falsely accused person to explain to their parents “what happened because, it's true, I lived a young man's life.”

The woman also accuses Darmanin of sexual harassment and abuse of power, while he has filed a libel complaint against her in return.

The allegations are not the first against Darmanin – a woman accused him of using his position as mayor of the northern city of Tourcoing to seek sexual favours from 2014 to 2017, though prosecutors dismissed the case.

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Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

A convicted murderer linked to one of Italy's most powerful mafia organisations was arrested on Thursday in central France, Interpol said.

Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

Edgardo Greco, 63, is suspected of belonging to the notorious ‘Ndrangheta, a powerful mafia organisation in Calabria, southern Italy.

He is wanted in Italy to serve a life sentence for the murders of Stefano and Giuseppe Bartolomeo, and accused of the attempted murder of Emiliano Mosciaro “as part of a mafia war between the Pino Sena and Perna Pranno gangs that marked the early 1990s”, Interpol said.

The Bartolomeo brothers were beaten to death with iron bars in a fish warehouse, Italian police said.

Greco’s arrest in central France came with help for Italy and France from the “Cooperation against ‘Ndrangheta Project” (I-CAN) run by Interpol, which facilitates police cooperation between its 195 member states.

READ ALSO: Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, quoted in Interpol’s statement, said the arrests demonstrated his country’s commitment to “fighting all forms of organised crime and locating dangerous fugitives”.

The ‘Ndrangheta is considered Italy’s most extensive and powerful mafia group, Interpol said, operating worldwide and with strong ties to the trade in cocaine bound for Europe from South America

I-CAN’s job is help raise awareness of ‘Ndrangheta and their modus operandi, sharing police information to dismantle their networks and operations, the agency said.

The arrest of Greco, who worked in the evenings in a pizza restaurant under an assumed named according to Italian media, came a week after Italian police said it had dismantled a ‘Ndrangheta mafia ring dominating a large area of southern Calabria and seized assets exceeding 250 million euros.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

The arrest of Greco comes just over two weeks after Italian police arrested one of the most notorious bosses of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia, Matteo Messina Denaro, who had been on the run for 30 years.

The 60-year-old was arrested after visiting a health clinic where he was being treated in the Sicilian capital Palermo