A Swiss court on Wednesday acquitted Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan on charges of rape and sexual coercion, finding no evidence against the former Oxford University professor.
The academic was also awarded around 151,000 Swiss francs ($167,000) in compensation from the Swiss canton of Geneva over the case.
After the verdict was read in the Geneva Criminal Court, the 60-year-old Swiss preacher smiled and was hugged by one of his daughters.
Ramadan’s 57-year-old accuser, identified under the assumed name of “Brigitte”, left the courtroom before the end of the verdict.
Her lawyers immediately vowed to appeal the ruling.
Prosecutors had last week called for a three-year sentence against Ramadan. The case was the first time he has been tried for rape, although he risks facing a trial in France on similar charges.
The Swiss trial presented two diametrically opposed versions of what happened in a Geneva hotel room in October 2008.
The lawyer representing Brigitte, a convert to Islam, said she was repeatedly raped and subjected to “torture and barbarism”.
Ramadan, a charismatic yet controversial figure in European Islam, rejected the charges, insisting there was no sexual activity between him and Brigitte, and saying he was the victim of a “trap”.
Brigitte was in her forties at the time of the alleged assault in 2008. She filed a complaint 10 years later, telling the court she felt emboldened to come forward following similar complaints filed in France.
– ‘Ramadanphobia’ –
Both parties agreed that Ramadan and Brigitte spent the night together in the hotel room, which she left early the following morning.
Ramadan insisted that Brigitte invited herself up to his room, then let herself be kissed, before quickly ending the encounter.
The indictment accused Ramadan of sexual coercion and of committing rape three times during the night.
During the trial, the defence insisted on Ramadan’s innocence and stressed there was no scientific evidence in the case.
His lawyers also accused Brigitte and the women who have brought charges against him in France of forging links to bring down the Islamic scholar, citing “Ramadanphobia”.
During his final statements in court last week, Ramadan asked not to be tried on his “real or supposed ideology” and urged the judges not to be “influenced by the media and political noise”.
“Forget I’m Tariq Ramadan!” he said.
Controversial among secularists who see him as a supporter of political Islam, Ramadan obtained a doctorate from the University of Geneva, with a thesis focused on his grandfather, who founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.
He was a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford until November 2017 and held visiting roles at universities in Qatar and Morocco.
He was forced to take a leave of absence when rape allegations surfaced in France at the height of the “Me Too” movement, over suspected attacks between 2009 and 2016.