France’s New Solidarity Minister Denies Sex Assault Charges

The newly appointed Minister of Solidarity and Persons with Disabilities by French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday denied allegations of rape more than a decade ago, an investigative website revealed.

Damien Abad, who is from the right, represents a political coup for centrist Macron in a cabinet reshuffle announced Friday in preparation for next month’s parliamentary elections.

The next day, the Mediapart website reported that a political watchdog set up by members of the French MeToo movement had reported prosecutors as well as Macron’s LREM party alleging rape against Abad by two women in 2010 and 2011.

The report said one of the women reported it to the police in 2012 but then refused to file a formal complaint, and prosecutors dismissed her subsequent lawsuit in 2017.

The Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office confirmed on Sunday that it had been informed of the two allegations by the international organization MeToo on Friday, and they are being investigated.

“I object in the strongest way to these accusations of sexual violence. I object to the use of any form of coercion whatsoever against any woman,” Abad said in a statement.

“Throughout my life, the sexual relations I had were always with mutual consent,” he added.

Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne, who was appointed by Macron herself last week, said on Sunday she was unaware of the allegations prior to Abad’s candidacy.

“Obviously I didn’t know,” she said during a campaign visit in Calvados, western France, ahead of the parliamentary vote, when Macron will be hoping for a solid majority for his second five-year term.

“I have no information other than the fact that the case has been dismissed,” she said, while promising that “regarding issues of sexual harassment and assault, there can be no impunity.”

“If there is new information, if a new complaint is made, we will determine all the consequences,” Bourne said.

In 2012, Abad, 42, became the first disabled person to be elected to the lower house of the National Assembly, and was the leader of his Republican Party’s MPs until joining Macron’s government.

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