French minister accused of sexual harassment resigns

29th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

A French junior minister accused of sexual harassment resigned Sunday, two weeks after former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on sex crime charges.

Civil service minister Georges Tron, accused of sexually harassing staff at the town hall where he is mayor, said in his letter of resignation to President Nicolas Sarkozy that he would continue the fight to prove his innocence.

Prosecutors this week launched a preliminary investigation after a lawyer for two former municipal employees in the Paris suburb of Draveil accused Tron of harassment.

The resignation was announced in a statement by the prime minister which praised Tron for his "courage" in taking a decision which was in the "general interest" and did not in any way affect the outcome of the probe.

Tron said in his resignation letter that he would disprove the "vindictive" accusations against him by two women, one of whom he said was sacked for fraud and the other for "undignified behaviour."

He has previously alleged that his political rivals are trying to gain momentum from the arrest of Strauss-Kahn for allegedly sexually assaulting a chambermaid in a posh New York hotel.

Tron linked the case to a feud with relatives of right-wing National Front leader Marine Le Pen living in Draveil, which prompted Le Pen to announce that she was suing him for defamation.

On Tuesday Tron told AFP the case against him was an attempt "to echo what's happening on the other side of the Atlantic," a reference to the charges against Strauss-Kahn.

A civil association for protecting women from violence at work, AVFT, said it had received a "credible" complaint about Tron from one of the two employees concerned in November, months before the Strauss-Kahn affair.

"We were in contact in a very serious way with one of the complainants well before all this," said spokeswoman Gwendoline Fizaine, adding that the woman "was extremely afraid of the consequences" of pressing charges.

After examining the evidence, prosecutors can decide to shelve the case against Tron, refer it to an examining magistrate or send it straight for trial.

Strauss-Kahn was released on bail this week after spending nearly a week behind bars following his dramatic arrest just hours after the alleged assault, as he was about to take off on an Air France plane for Paris.

He moved Wednesday into a rented luxury townhouse in Manhattan where he is living under strict house arrest until his trial. He was freed on a $6 million bail provided that he be guarded around the clock and wear a GPS monitoring device.

Strauss-Kahn must reappear in court on June 6, when he is expected to enter a formal plea of not guilty. If so, the case would move to trial later this year.

© 2011 AFP

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