French MP accused of sexual harassment faces legal probe

10th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

French judges opened an investigation on Tuesday into allegations that deputy parliamentary speaker Denis Baupin sexually harassed four women within his party.

His wife, Housing Minister Emmanuelle Cosse, told French radio earlier in the day that she was shocked by allegations made Monday by four members of their ecologist EELV party.

"We are talking about acts of extreme seriousness and if they are proven, it must be dealt with by the courts," she told France Info.

She said she still had faith in her husband and had heard nothing of the accusations until they appeared in the media on Monday.

"I was very affected as a woman, as a wife, as a mother and also as a minister," she said.

Baupin, 53, resigned his post as a deputy speaker on Monday, saying he wanted to focus on fighting the allegations, which he vehemently denies.

Paris prosecutors said their investigation would focus on gathering statements from the alleged victims and that no criminal complaint had been lodged against Baupin.

The statute of limitations for harassment in France is only three years, which would exclude most of the incidents alleged by the four women, some of which date back 15 years.

EELV spokeswoman Sandrine Rousseau told the Mediapart website and France Inter radio that Baupin made an aggressive pass at her in October 2011 outside a party meeting.

"Denis Baupin appeared in the corridor outside... He pinned me against the wall with his chest and tried to kiss me. I pushed him away vigorously," she said.

Elen Debost, deputy mayor of the central city of Le Mans, said she received sexually explicit text messages for several months in 2011.

She said she did not realise the scale of the problem until approached by the media, and that "a lot of people kept quiet so as not to harm his campaign".

Baupin's lawyer described the allegations as "mendacious, defamatory and baseless".

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© 2016 AFP

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