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article imageFormer French minister Tron on trial for rape

By Myriam LEMETAYER (AFP)     Oct 23, 2018 in World

A French former government minister went on trial Tuesday accused of raping two former employees during foot-massaging sessions in his municipal office.

Georges Tron, a centre-right former deputy minister in charge of the civil service, was forced to resign in 2011 over the allegations made by two women who worked for him at the town hall of the southern Paris suburb of Draveil.

Tron, a 61-year-old former MP who is still mayor of Draveil, and his former deputy, Brigitte Gruel, also 61, are accused of abusing the women during foot reflexology sessions in Tron's office that turned into threesomes.

They deny the charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years' imprisonment.

Virginie Ettel, 41, and Eva Loubrieu, 44, said they felt powerless to resist being groped and penetrated digitally by Tron because they were afraid of losing their jobs. They said Gruel took part in some of the sessions.

Ettel, 41, later resigned, while Loubrieu, 44, was fired after being accused of theft.

The two women both separately tried to commit suicide before filing police complaints against Tron and Gruel, according to Le Monde newspaper.

"I have always said I am completely innocent. I have never been violent towards anyone," Tron, who practises reflexology as a hobby, told the jury.

Gruel said she had been living in "hell" since 2011 when the allegations emerged and claimed they were part of a political smear plot.

The accusations first emerged days after French former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on charges of attempting to rape a hotel maid.

The criminal case against Strauss-Kahn later fell apart and he settled the civil case out of court but the affair had a knock-on effect in France, leading several women to break their silence about alleged harassment or assault by politicians and other public figures.

Tron's trial had been set to take place in December 2017, in the midst of a global outpouring of accounts of sexual assault and harassment triggered by the Harvey Weinstein affair in the US.

The case was however postponed after the presiding judge was overheard telling lawyers that he wished a woman was hearing the case.

It is set to run until November 16 with a new judge, who is also male.

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