Justice

Rape probe against French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin may be scrapped

Rape accusations against Gérald Darmanin go back to 2009 when he a legal affairs adviser with the conservative right UMP party, now known as the Republicains
Rape accusations against Gérald Darmanin go back to 2009 when he a legal affairs adviser with the conservative right UMP party, now known as the Republicains CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Allegations of rape against France's Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin look set to be dropped after the investigating judge closed the investigation, French media reported.

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The investigating judge has closed the inquiry into rape accusations against Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and is moving towards a dismissal, according to French investigative website Mediapart.

Darmanin was being questioned as an assisted witness, not a suspect.

The Paris prosecutor has still to make recommendations before the investigating judge makes her final decision, but it looks most likely the case against Darmanin will be dismissed. 

"I am saddened by the decision to close the investigation," the complainant, Sophie Patterson-Spatz, told French media on Monday evening.

Patterson-Spatz accused Darmanin of rape, sexual harassment and abuse of trust dating back to 2009 after she sought his help to help lift a suspended sentence for blackmail.

At the time he was a legal affairs adviser with the UMP, the predecessor of France's main right-wing party, the Republicans.

She claimed Darmanin had offered her help but in exchange for sexual favours.

Darmanin has admitted to having a sexual relationship with the complainant, but has always denied coercion was involved.

'A masquerade'

The judge's decision could remove a thorn in the side for Darmanin.

His promotion to security chief in July 2020 caused shock and anger from from feminist groups and opposition parties.

Patterson-Spatz first filed a complaint in 2017, but it has been dismissed several times.

In mid-June 2020, the Paris Court of Appeal ordered investigations into the accusations to resume.

In December of that year, he spoke to two investigating magistrates "at his own request" over the accusations.

"This investigation has been a masquerade from the outset," Patterson told Mediapart on Monday saying she hoped other women would come forward and testify over the minister's behaviour.

"Don't be afraid," she said. "Big steps forward are always collective efforts."

Gerald Darmanin has filed his own lawsuit for defamation of character.

His lawyers, Pierre-Olivier Sur and Mathias Chichportich, said Monday evening that their client had declined to comment.

"After three consecutive court decisions recognised the absence of an offence, he is awaiting the investigating judge's final decision," they wrote in a statement.

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