A centrist politician became the third woman to accuse French cabinet minister Damien Abad of sexual assault in the latest allegation against a member of Emmanuel Macron’s government.
The attempted rape complaint against Mr Macron’s solidarity and social cohesion minister is “currently being examined”, prosecutors have confirmed.
Mediapart, the investigative news website, reported on Monday that the unnamed woman had accused Mr Abad of trying to rape her during a party at his home in 2010.
He 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. His lawyer added that he didn’t know who the plaintiff was.
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 Mr Abad was the national president. He was also an MEP.
The woman told the website that Mr Abad offered her a drink that evening, but she noticed “something” floating at the bottom of the glass and spat out the liquid in the bathroom.
On her way out, she said, Mr 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” (not her real name) 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.
Mr Abad has a condition called arthrogryposis which affects all four of his limbs. He has argued that this would have made it impossible for him to carry out such acts without help.
The accusation against Mr Abad follows other allegations of sexual assault against French ministers.
Last week, Mr 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.
The third woman told broadcaster TMC that she had been subject to “gynaecological violence” at a 2018 appointment related to her endometriosis. Two other women filed complaints in May and June, prompting prosecutors to open an official investigation.
Ms Zacharopoulou said: “I have never forced an examination on a single one of my patients without their consent”.
Prosecutors also investigated interior minister Gerald Darmanin over a rape allegation filed in 2017. He denied any wrongdoing and prosecutors in January asked for the case to be dropped.
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