Prosecutors want rape case dropped against French Interior Minister

French prosecutors said on Thursday they have asked for a rape case against Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin to be dropped, almost five years after his accuser first came forward.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin delivers a speech.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin delivers a speech. The French Interior Minister was accused of rape in 2017, but prosecutors want the case dropped. (Photo by Daniel Cole / AFP)

In 2017, a woman accused Darmanin, a right-wing stalwart of President Emmanuel Macron’s government, of rape, sexual harassment and abuse of power dating back to 2009.

She says he 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.

Ordered by an appeals court to reopen the case in 2020 after dropping it a first time in 2018, Paris prosecutors interviewed Darmanin alongside the woman for nine hours in March last year.

But he was questioned as a witness, not as a formal suspect, and has always maintained he was “wrongfully accused”.

Paris prosecutors told AFP that they on Wednesday have asked for the case to be abandoned.

It will now be up to an investigating magistrate to decide whether to again throw the case out.

Darmanin’s lawyers told AFP they had “taken note” of the prosecutors’ request, while neither the woman nor her lawyer were immediately available for comment.

Macron’s decision to appoint Darmanin interior minister in 2020 enraged feminists, coming weeks after the order to reopen the rape case and at the height of a wave of sexual assault allegations sparked by the #MeToo movement.

The high-flying politician, 39, is one of the key right-wing figures in the centrist Macron’s cabinet, brandishing tough rhetoric on issues including immigration, French identity and the current rocky relations with the UK.

He is expected to play a major role in a campaign by Macron to seek re-election later this year against a field of rivals so far dominated by figures on the right.

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French Mediterranean resort’s far-right mayor bans burkinis

The far-right mayor of a resort on the Mediterranean coast of France has banned Muslim women from wearing burkinis in any of the town's swimming pools or beaches - despite previous court rulings saying that this is illegal.

French Mediterranean resort's far-right mayor bans burkinis

Three days after the southeastern city of Grenoble voted to allow swimmers to wear the full-cover swimsuit, the mayor of Fréjus – a member of Marine Le Pen’s far right Rassemblement National party – announced that he had decided to outlaw it.

“I learned with amazement of the authorisation given by the mayor of Grenoble to authorise the burkini in the swimming pools of its commune,” David Rachline wrote in a press release. 

READ ALSO OPINION: If France is to belong in a multicultural world it must accept its Muslim women

In fact, Grenoble updated its rules for municipal swimming pools to allow all bathers to wear any swimsuit – including burkinis – that protected them from the sun. It also permits women to swim topless if they wish and men to wear swim shorts instead of Speedos.

No-one seems to have had an issue with the swim shorts or the topless rule, but the addition of the ‘burkini’ to the list of accepted swimwear caused a major stir, with many lining up to condemn the move – including France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who ordered the local Préfet to review the decision, and later announced that he had asked for a legal challenge to the new regulations.

READ ALSO French government aims to block ‘burkinis’ in swimming pools

Rachline has pre-empted any decision from the government by acting unilaterally, trotting out the familiar refrain from the right that the decision in Grenoble goes against the “fundamental republican principle of secularism”.

“The express authorisation of the burkini is neither more nor less than an electoral provocation with a communitarian spring, implemented by the radical left,” he said.

“I see a culpable complacency with radical Islamism, for electoral purposes and in defiance of national cohesion.

“In order for things to be clearly stated, I have decided, as mayor of Fréjus, guarantor of public hygiene and safety, to modify the corresponding decrees to explicitly specify the ban on the burkini.”

His ban extends to both the town’s municipal swimming pools and its beaches, and he’s not the first southern mayor to attempt to ban burkinis on beaches.

In 2016, Cannes mayor David Lisnard issued an anti-burkini order on the beaches of his town.

The decision, which had also been taken in municipalities such as Villeneuve-Loubet (Alpes-Maritimes), was overturned after an opinion from the Conseil d’Etat, one of France’s highest legal authorities.