New French PM defends promotion of minister accused of rape

International

Newly appointed Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin arrives at the Elysee Palace for the weekly cabinet meeting, in Paris, France, Tuesday July 7, 2020. Darmanin has been appointed as the new Interior Minister after the government of Edouard Philippe had resigned on July 3, 2020, prompting a government and cabinet reshuffle. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS (AP) — France’s new prime minister firmly defended Wednesday the contested promotion of a colleague accused of rape as his interior minister, in charge of enforcing French laws.

Prime Minister Jean Castex’s vigorous expression of support for the minister, Gerald Darmanin, follows protests by women’s rights groups and questions about whether President Emmanuel Macron is failing in his promises to make a priority of equality between men and women.

Castex told broadcaster BFM-TV that he takes total responsibility for Darmanin’s appointment at the Interior Ministry. He was promoted from his previous job as budget minister.

“He, like everyone else, has the right to the presumption of innocence,” Castex said.

Darmanin is under preliminary investigation over a rape accusation that he firmly denies. Macron’s office has said the probe was “not an obstacle” to Darmanin’s appointment to his new job in charge of police and other law enforcement bodies.

The recently reopened investigation is based on a 2017 legal complaint by a woman who alleged that Darmanin raped her when she sought legal help from him in 2009. Darmanin, the highest-ranking French official accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era, says the encounter was consensual. He sued the woman for slander.

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