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French school-on-a-boat guru accused of paedophilia

AFP Photo/Bertrand Guay
2 min

A French alternative education guru on Wednesday told a court he accepted responsibility for the “suffering” of former pupils who accuse him of statutory rape during voyages of a floating school that sailed the oceans from the 1960s to the '90s. Three of Léonide Kameneff's staff are also accused of paedophilia.


On the second day of the trial Kameneff, 76, admitted taking part in sessions of mutual masturbation with a 12-year-old in 1964-65 after saying on Tuesday that “games” of sexual nature took place on board.

Bernard Poggi-Vérigon, who became Kameneff's partner after being a pupil, is now in the dock alongside Kameneff, accused in his turn of paedophile relations with four pupils after he joined the boat’s crew.

After hearing his nine accusers describe frequent nudity, collective massages and an “ideology” that encouraged sexual relations between children on board, Kameneff admitted “crossing the line without realising it” and executing “reprehensible gestures” but continued to deny experiencing “paedophile attraction”.

A paedophile “doesn’t care about the child, the child has no importance for him”, he told the court on Tuesday, whereas his acts were motivated by affection.

“If one has reciprocal feelings of tenderness and affection for others it can go further,” he told the court. “To me that was affection.”

On Wednesday Kameneff confessed to a “feeling of responsibility” for Poggi-Vérigon’s situation today and for the other plaintiffs, saying that Tuesday afternoon’s court session had deepened his understanding of the question.

Psychotherapist Kameneff’s school on a boat took more than 400 children of nine to 16-years-old and many are due to testify to having profited from the experience.

But the first legal complaint for sexual abuse was filed in 1994 and in 2012 France was found guilty of denying the plaintiffs justice because the case had dragged out for so long.

Last year tennis trainer Régis de Camaret faced trial, accused of raping about 20 female tennis champions in his charge.

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