Morning Chronicle - Judge drops rape probe against France's interior minister

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Judge drops rape probe against France's interior minister
Judge drops rape probe against France's interior minister / Photo: Thomas COEX - POOL/AFP/File

Judge drops rape probe against France's interior minister

A Paris investigating judge on Monday ordered the closure of a five-year rape investigation into French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, his lawyers said.

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"The justice system has said for the fourth time in five years that Mr Darmanin has not committed any punishable act," Mathias Chichportich and Pierre-Olivier Sur said.

A judicial source confirmed to AFP that the case against Darmanin, a right-wing stalwart of President Emmanuel Macron's government, had been dropped -- although the decision can still be appealed.

The latest closing of a probe into Darmanin comes just one week after Macron sacked a junior minister, former conservative parliamentary chief Damien Abad, who had been accused of attempted rape.

Another junior minister still in office, former gynaecologist Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, is under investigation by prosecutors after several women accused her of rape during medical examinations.

Darmanin's lawyers said the interior minister himself would not comment on the investigation into claims by plaintiff Sophie Patterson-Spatz of rape, sexual harassment and abuse of trust dating back to 2009.

Patterson-Spatz says Darmanin raped her after she sought his help to have a criminal record expunged while he was a legal affairs adviser with the UMP, the predecessor of France's main right-wing party, the Republicans.

Neither she nor her lawyer commented immediately on the investigation being closed.

Prosecutors had already asked in January for the case to be closed, and Darmanin has brought a defamation case of his own against his accuser.

The case has dogged him since he was named to the interior ministry in 2020, with feminists especially critical of his presence in one of France's major offices of state.