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CRIME

Ex French government minister jailed for rape after 10-year legal battle

After nearly 10 years of legal battles that initially led to an acquittal, a former French government minister has been jailed after a court found him guilty of raping an employee during "foot massages" in his office.

Ex French government minister jailed for rape after 10-year legal battle
Former minister George Tron is now behind bars. Photo: AFP

The conviction of Georges Tron, 63, comes as France is confronting a wave of sexual assault allegations that has pushed the government to promise tougher laws to protect victims and punish assailants.

Tron remained silent when the verdict was announced late on Wednesday by a Paris appeals court after 11 hours of jury deliberation, and handed his watch to his lawyer before police took him directly to prison to serve a five-year sentence, with two years suspended.

Tron was a cabinet minister under prime minister François Fillon when he was forced to resign in 2011 over allegations made by two women who worked for him while he was mayor of Draveil, outside Paris.

The women said that between 2007 and 2010, Tron, known for practicing reflexology as a hobby, imposed foot massage sessions that would involve groping and digital penetration, at times turning into threesomes with his deputy Brigitte Gruel.

Virginie Ettel and Eva Loubrieu testified that they felt powerless to resist the politician over fear of losing their jobs. Ettel later resigned, while Loubrieu was fired after being accused of theft.

But the court convicted Tron of raping only Ettel, saying he had applied “psychological constraint” because she was his direct subordinate at city hall.    

Gruel was handed a suspended two-year sentence.

“This is a huge victory for all women who face problems in the workplace,” said Ettel's lawyer Vincent Ollivier.

Tron was cleared of raping Loubrieu, who broke down in tears and rushed out of the courtroom upon hearing the verdict.

The appeal court verdict comes after a court ruling two years ago that found no use of force and said the women appeared motivated by a desire for “vengeance.”

Tron's lawyer at the time, Eric Dupond-Moretti, had declared “a victory for justice.”

But Dupond-Moretti, who is now President Emmanuel Macron's justice minister, is spearheading the government's pledge for tougher laws against sexual assault.

The country has seen thousands of women breaking their silence since last year's publication of “Consent” by Vanessa Springora, whose account of abuse by a prize-winning author while she was still a minor has just been translated to English.

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POLITICS

‘A good thing’ for footballers to express values, says France’s PM

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne - speaking in Berlin - said that footballers should be allowed to express their values, amid controversy over FIFA's stance against the 'OneLove' armband on the pitch.

'A good thing' for footballers to express values, says France's PM

“There are rules for what happens on the field but I think it’s a good thing for players to be able to express themselves on the values that we obviously completely share, while respecting the rules of the tournament,” said Borne at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

Germany’s players made headlines before Wednesday’s shock loss to Japan when the team lined up for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths after FIFA’s threat to sanction players wearing the rainbow-themed armband.

Seven European nations, including Germany, had previously planned for their captains to wear the armband, but backed down over FIFA’s warning.

Following Germany’s action, Wales and the Netherlands have since come out to say they would not mirror the protest.

Borne’s visit to Germany was her first since she was named to her post in May.

Following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two leaders signed an agreement for “mutual support” on “guaranteeing their energy supplies”.

Concrete measures outlined in the deal include France sending Germany gas supplies as Berlin seeks to make up for gaping holes in deliveries from Russia.

Germany meanwhile would help France “secure its electricity supplies over winter”, according to the document.

France had since 1981 been a net exporter of electricity to its neighbours because of its nuclear plants. But maintenance issues dogging the plants have left France at risk of power cuts in case of an extremely cold winter.

The two leaders also affirmed their countries’ commitment to backing Ukraine “to the end of” its conflict with invaders Russia.

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