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POLICE

French police detain the Paris chef and businessman named in ‘secret dinners’ scandal

French police on Friday detained for questioning chef Christophe Leroy and businessman Pierre-Jean Chalencon after accusations they organised clandestine restaurant dinners for top figures in defiance of Covid-19 restrictions, prosecutors said.

French police detain the Paris chef and businessman named in 'secret dinners' scandal
Illustration photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

The two men, along with Leroy’s spouse, were interrogated for several hours by investigators before being released.

“At this stage of the investigation, there is no evidence that indicates any members of the government took part in the dinners being investigated,” prosecutors said.

The M6 private television channel last week broadcast a reportage based on footage recorded with a hidden camera purportedly from a clandestine restaurant in a high-end area of Paris where neither the staff nor the diners were wearing masks.

Participants were shown enjoying caviar and champagne at the even costing 220 euros(260 dollars) per person.

All restaurants and cafes have been closed in France for eating in for the last five months. The country this week began a new limited nationwide lockdown to deal with surging Covid-19 infections.

The hashtag #OnVeutLesNoms (We Want the Names) went viral on Twitter, as speculation swirled over who may have attended such dinners.

Chalencon, who owns the luxury Palais Vivienne venue in the centre of Paris that was allegedly used for such an event, had told the channel that several such dinners had taken place and even ministers had attended.

The long-haired businessman, a prominent collector of memorabilia, later backtracked from this remark and the government has vehemently denied that any ministers have been involved.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said Sunday that a criminal probe had been opened into putting the lives of others at risk.

Police on Thursday searched the premises of the Palais Vivienne and a similar search had been carried on Wednesday at the home of Christophe Leroy.

Leroy’s lawyer Thierry Fradet said his client had submitted documents that showed that any dinners he had organised were in private homes – in line with the current rules – and not secret restaurants.

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HEALTH

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.

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