Fri, Jun 24, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Former French minister charged with sex assault

AFP, PARIS

A Feb. 18 photo shows Georges Tron in Courcouronnes, in the southern suburbs of Paris, France.

Photo: AFP

A former French government minister and mayor with the ruling party has been charged with rape after accusations he sexually assaulted women working for him at city hall, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Georges Tron, formerly a junior civil service minister from French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party, is facing charges of rape and sexual assault by “a person in authority,” prosecutor Marie-Suzanne Le Queau said after he appeared before judges in a court in Evry, outside Paris.

Tron was released on bail. The crimes are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Tron, 53, was arrested on Monday following allegations that he sexually assaulted women who worked in the town hall in Draveil, south of Paris, where he is mayor.

Two women who worked with him at city hall filed complaints against Tron while a third, a former parliamentary aide, has appeared as a witness and also made accusations, but not lodged a formal complaint.

His assistant for culture at the mayor’s office, Brigitte Gruel, was also charged with rape and sexual assault and given a conditional release.

Le Queau said Tron had denied having “any relations of a sexual nature with the victims, even relations that would have been consensual.”

She said, however, that statements from the two plaintiffs, aged 34 and 36, were “coherent” and “corroborated on some points by outside elements.”

Tron’s lawyer Olivier Schnerb said that one of the conditions of his release is that he is not allowed to meet with any of his accusers.

He said Tron insisted on his innocence and is convinced he will be acquitted. Being charged, Schnerb said, “has never made anyone guilty.”

The two plaintiffs alleged that Tron forced them to let him give them foot massages, which turned into forced sexual encounters.

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