French minister dismissed from government following rape investigation

French minister dismissed from government following rape investigation
Ex-minister Damien Abad. Credit: Belga

Damien Abad, the French Minister for Solidarity, Autonomy and the Disabled has been dismissed from the French government on Monday over an investigation against him on charges of attempted rape. The politician claims he will be able to better "defend himself without hindering the action of the government."

"I will defend myself relentlessly until justice confirms my innocence," Abad said when his post was transferred to two people, Jean-Christophe Combe, Director-General of the Red Cross, and also Geneviève Darrieussecq, member of the MoDem, who was minister of veterans during the first five-year term.

The move comes as part of a government reshuffle where Abad reluctantly has given up his position just a month after receiving his ministerial post.

Sexual assault allegations

The 40-year-old from Les Républicains stands accused of rape, attempted rape and sexual assault from three separate women following allegations from a third woman.

Earlier on Monday, French TV BFM-TV showed allegations from a woman, who said she had woken up in her hotel room after a partial blackout the night before, in which she had had drinks with Abad.

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Previously, Abad had denied raping two women, following accusations published in an article by the website Mediapart. The women interviewed in Mediapart said in May that Abad had forced them to have unwanted sexual relationships with him. The incidents happened in late 2010 and early 2011, according to the women.

Abad has denied both allegations, stating that his disability made it physically impossible for him to commit the events he is accused of.

Abad had joined Macron's new government in May. When asked by reporters about ministers accused of rape, the government's supporters would say innocent until proven guilty.

A new investigation

Events took a bitter turn for Abad when the Paris Prosecutor's Office announced on 29 June that it was opening an investigation into the accusations against Abad.

In recent weeks, opposition have called for Abad to resign in a scandal that has harmed Macron's government. However, not everyone accused of sexual assault in the French government has been obliged to resign.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin will retain his position, despite criticism from feminists over rape accusations - an investigation was closed without further charges. In addition, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, the Minister for Francophonie is accused of rape in relation to her work as a gynaecologist, but remains in office as well.

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