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article imageFrench ex-minister cleared of raping two former employees

By Camille MALPLAT and Myriam LEMETAYER (AFP)     Nov 15, 2018 in World

A French court on Thursday acquitted former government minister Georges Tron of raping two employees during foot-massaging sessions in his office.

Tron, who served as junior minister for 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.

The women accused the 61-year-old Tron, who is mayor of Draveil, and his former deputy, Brigitte Gruel, of abusing them during foot reflexology sessions in Tron's office between 2007 and 2010 that turned into threesomes.

After a four-week trial Tron and Gruel were both acquitted of the charges.

The court found no evidence the women were "forced" to take part in the sexual encounters, even while noting "Georges Tron's clear ability to get his own way and to exert pressure."

Virginie Ettel, 41, and Eva Loubrieu, 44, testified that 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 later resigned, while Loubrieu was fired after being accused of theft.

The court said in its ruling the pair appeared motivated by a desire for "vengeance."

Reacting to the verdict, Ettel expressed "huge disappointment" and said: "I will not give up the battle I have been fighting for years."

The prosecution, which had called for Tron to be given a six-year prison sentence, has 10 days to appeal.

Tron, who practises reflexology as a hobby, and Gruel had denied the allegations, claiming they were part of a political smear campaign.

Tron's lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti welcomed the ruling, contrasting it with the "trial by media which saw Georges Tron condemned to impossible conditions for seven years, unable to pursuee his career, mocked."

The Osez Le Feminisme (Dare Feminism) campaign group expressed anger at the ruling.

"To all the victims of rape and sexual assault.... Have courage. We believe you," spokesman Raphaelle Remy-Leleu wrote.

The accusations against Tron emerged days after Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former French head of the International Monetary Fund, was arrested in New York in May 2011 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.

More about procs, politique, partis, Agression, viol
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