France Decisive court decision in the rape allegation against the

France: Decisive court decision in the rape allegation against the Interior Minister

The Court of Cassation, France's highest court, made its decision on Wednesday afternoon on rape allegations against Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, a government heavyweight.

Confirmation of the dismissal already announced in the appeal process would finally exonerate this former loyalist of ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Conversely, a lawsuit in court would restart the proceedings against this minister, who represents the right wing of the government and who is regularly attributed with presidential ambitions.

The complainant, Sophie Patterson-Spatz, 52, has accused Mr Darmanin since 2017 of raping her in 2009.

During the closed hearing before the Court of Cassation, the rapporteur and the prosecutor general concluded that the applicant's appeal had been rejected, according to two sources familiar with the case.

The court can also order a new hearing in the investigative chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal to examine the dismissal of the case.

In 2009, the applicant contacted Gérald Darmanin, then leader of the right-wing UMP party (now LR, Les Républicains), for assistance in reviewing a conviction for extortion and malicious calls against a former associate.

According to her, during an evening in Paris, Mr. Darmanin had assured her of his possible support and in return asked for a sexual relationship.

Both admit to having had sexual intercourse, but Sophie Patterson-Spatz believes she was forced to do so by Mr Darmanin, then 26 years old.

For his lawyer Me Elodie Tuaillon-Hibon, it is a “surprise rape” and a “blackmailed” sexual relationship, “neither free nor consensual”.

The Interior Minister, in turn, claimed in the proceedings that he had “given in to the charms” of an “enterprising” complainant.

After the investigation was completed three times, Ms. Patterson-Spatz was appointed investigating judge in the summer of 2020.

Mr. Darmanin was not charged and benefited from a dismissal of the case in July 2022, which was confirmed in January 2023. The complainant then lodged an appeal.

A resident of Tourcoing (north) had also accused Mr Darmanin of forcing her to have sex in exchange for accommodation and a job, but the investigation was closed in 2018.

Feminist organizations and activists staged numerous demonstrations against the Interior Minister following these allegations, but the issue has since largely disappeared from the spotlight.