French minister targeted in sexual assault complaint

A French cabinet minister on Monday became the target of a complaint for attempted rape, prosecutors said, the latest sexual misconduct allegation against a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

The complaint against Solidarity and Social Cohesion Minister Damien Abad is “currently being examined”, they told AFP.

News website Mediapart reported earlier Monday that a “centrist politician” had accused Abad of trying to rape her during a party at his home in 2010.

Abad denied the accusations in a written statement to media, saying he would sue the woman for libel.

“I will not leave these mendacious and scandalous accusations without a response,” he said.

The woman’s lawyer did not respond to AFP’s request for comment.

Earlier this month, Mediapart published an article based on an interview with the woman.

At the time of the party she was head of a youth section of the Nouveau Centre (New Centrist) party, of which Abad was the national president. He was also a deputy in the European Parliament.

The woman — whom Mediapart called “Laetitia”, not her real name — told the website that Abad offered her a drink that evening, but she noticed “something” floating at the bottom of the glass and spat out a mouthful of liquid in the bathroom.

When she came out, she said, Abad was waiting for her, pushed her into an adjacent room and tried to force her to perform oral sex on him.

“I was afraid, I was paralysed. I fought him, hit him in the stomach,” Mediapart quoted her as saying.

“Laetitia” said she then managed to break free, thanks to the arrival of a party guest, and fled from the room.

Mediapart said she cited eight people whom she either confided in later, or who witnessed part of the evening’s events.

The complaint is the third sexual assault allegation against the minister. Prosecutors have not launched any formal investigation to date.

The accusation against Abad follows other allegations of sexual assault against French ministers.

Last week, Macron’s junior minister for development, Francophony and international partnerships Chrysoula Zacharopoulou denied allegations she had raped patients during gynaecological examinations, after three women filed criminal complaints. 

Earlier, prosecutors investigated Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin over an allegation for rape filed in 2017.

He denied any wrongdoing and prosecutors in January asked for the case to be dropped.