Macron defends appointment of minister accused of rape

The French President says the accused minister has the right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. But women’s rights groups question: Would the same logic apply if he were accused of murder?

15 July 2020
Gérald Darmanin meeting police. Mr Darmanin has been promoted to interior minister in France, even though he is being investigated in an ongoing trial accused of rape.Mr Darmanin claims he had consensual sex with the woman accusing him of rape.
By Joanna York

President Macron defended the appointment of the new interior minister currently under criminal investigation in a televised interview yesterday (July 14). 

Gérald Darmanin became interior minister following a cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, even though he is at the centre of an ongoing trial, accused of rape.

Support for accused minister

In response to initial controversy over Mr Darmanin’s appointment, the Élysée released a statement saying judicial analysis found that his position in an ongoing criminal investigation presented “no obstacle” to his nomination for interior minister.

The President reiterated his support for the minister yesterday, saying he did not want the interior minister to “become a kind of victim of judgement by the street or social media”. 

He added that Mr Darmanin should be “guaranteed the presumption of innocence” until proved otherwise.

Outrage over appointment

But the appointment of the minister has outraged many, including women’s rights groups and those who support survivors of sexual assault. 

Madeline Da Silva, member of feminist group Nous Toutes, told news source Franceinfo she was “not surprised” by the President’s statement. Instead, she called it a “provocation”.

She said: “Do you think that for another crime, a murder or an assassination, that they would have nominated someone who was under investigation? No, this only happens for crimes linked to sexual and sexist violence, namely rape.

“Today in France, if you are accused of rape, you can still be nominated to be a minister. It’s not a legal question or a question of presumed innocence. 

 "It’s a question of politics and the messages that are being sent.” 

 

Rape investigation has been reopened

Mr Darmanin is accused of raping Sophie Patterson-Spatz in 2009 when she sought legal help from him in his role as local councillor. 

The interior minister has confirmed that he did have sex with Ms Patterson-Spatz, but claims it was consensual.

Ms Patterson-Spatz first brought the accusation to trial in 2018 but the case was dismissed as evidence “could not prove the absence of consent from the plaintiff, nor prove the existence of a constraint, menace, surprise or violence in its place".  

After appeals, the case has since been reopened.  

Mr Darmanin has always maintained that he is innocent, and has said he will cooperate with magistrates in the ongoing investigation. 

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