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French court to review dismissal of rape case against minister

French court to review dismissal of rape case against minister
FILE PHOTO: France's budget minister, Gerald Darmanin, leaves the Elysee Palace following a weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier -
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Benoit Tessier(Reuters)
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PARIS (Reuters) – An appeal court must look again at whether a judge’s decision to dismiss an investigation into rape allegations against France’s budget minister was valid, a court ruled on Thursday.

The investigation into the allegations against Gerald Darmanin, who is a close political ally of President Emmanuel Macron and denies rape, was dropped in August 2018 when prosecutors said they could not establish “absence of consent”.

Darmanin has described the allegations as slander. He could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

A re-opening of the investigation could harm Darmanin’s ambitions to stand next year in municipal elections which will be important for Macron if he is to anchor his fledgling LaRepublique en Marche party at the local level.

The woman accused Darmanin of coercing her into having sex in 2009 when she sought his help in having her criminal record cleared. She appealed against last year’s decision but the Paris Court of Appeal had said she did so too late.

On Thursday, the Cour de Cassation, which does not judge facts but only whether a decision by an appeal court conforms to law, told the Court of Appeal to review the judge’s initial ruling again.

The rape allegation came at a time of heightened demand for action against predatory sexual behaviour or abuse of power for sexual favours following the sex scandal surrounding U.S. movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; editing by Richard Lough and Timothy Heritage)

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