France’s newly appointed interior minister Gerald Darmanin could face a fresh investigation into an alleged rape following a court ruling, sources close to the case told CNN on Tuesday.
The Paris court of appeals ruled that a judge may reopen the investigation into a 2018 allegation that Darmanin raped a woman in 2009, sources told CNN.
A lawyer for Darmanin, who was appointed interior minister on Monday, said the accusation is baseless.
On Tuesday morning, about a dozen activists were gathered outside the interior ministry chanting: “Darmanin rapist, state complicit.” They were quickly removed by the police.
Darmanin was accused of rape and sexual harassment by Sophie Patterson in January 2018. She said he used his position as a member of the judicial committee in 2009 to force her into having sex with him.
While the case was initially dismissed in February 2018, in June of this year the Paris court of appeals ruled that the reasons for not investigating the claims were not sufficient, according to lawyers for both parties.
The ruling means that the case will once again be in the hands of an investigating judge, who will decide whether a formal investigation should be opened.
“I am shocked. I am very surprised that a person accused by a woman of rape has been appointed Minister of the Interior,” Patterson’s lawyer, Marjolaine Vignola, told CNN on Tuesday.
“In any European democracy, there are guarantees offered to victims so that they can speak out without fear, whatever the function and whatever the social status of the people they denounce. It sends a scary signal to my client,” Vignola added.
However, Darmanin’s lawyer Pierre-Olivier Sur told CNN he was completely confident the case would be dismissed again because of the “emptiness” of the allegations.
President Emmanuel Macron’s office told CNN the Elysée palace never comments on ongoing judicial matters and that Darmanin, like every citizen, benefits from the presumption of innocence.
Darmanin’s appointment follows a cabinet reshuffle under the newly appointed Prime Minister Jean Castex, a center-right politician who coordinated the country’s strategy for exiting coronavirus lockdown.
The cabinet reshuffle had been widely anticipated after Macron’s party performed poorly in recent local elections.