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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan hit with another rape charge

The latest charge relates to the alleged rape in 2013 and 2014 of Mounia Rabbouj, a former escort girl who was one of the first to accuse him of sexual assault.

Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan has been hit by another charge of raping a woman, his lawyers in France said Thursday, after four other similar accusations.

The 58-year-old Ramadan, a Swiss national, has already been charged in France with raping four other women, which he denies.

A father of four whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Ramadan was a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when rape allegations surfaced at the height of the “Me Too” movement in 2017.

Read more: Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan admitted of having “consensual sex” with the rape accusers

The latest charge relates to the alleged rape in 2013 and 2014 of Mounia Rabbouj, a former escort girl who was one of the first to accuse him of sexual assault.

Her testimony had forced Ramadan to admit to extramarital relations for the first time, but he stressed they were “consensual”.

Paris prosecutors had asked him to be charged in this case in 2018 but judges had suspended their decision until now.

“There is no new element” in the probe, Ramadan’s lawyers Nabila Asmane, Ouadie El Hamamouchi and Philippe Ohayon said Thursday in a joint statement given to AFP after Ramadan was questioned and charged by the judges.

“It’s not Tariq Ramadan’s word against that of this woman, it is this woman against her own serious and consistent lies,” they said.

Rabbouj’s lawyer Eric Morain, however, said “the probe has shown how the word of my client was as reliable as it was constant.”

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Being charged in France does not necessarily mean a suspect will end up on trial, as a case can still be dropped for lack of evidence.

Background of case against Ramadan

The claims against the prominent scholar, which emerged in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the United States, have divided many Muslims, with his legions of fans, as well as his lawyers, saying he is the victim of a smear campaign. But critics have long suggested that despite Ramadan’s moderate tone as a familiar face on television programmes, he preaches a more radical line when addressing Muslims in Arabic.

As part of his defence, he has presented investigators with Facebook conversations in which a woman identified as Ayari allegedly made explicit advances towards him in 2014, two years after the alleged rape. Ramadan is the most high-profile figure to be held in France over the sexual assault and harassment claims that have rippled around the world as a result of the “Me Too” campaign.

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The first was made by Ayari, a feminist activist who previously practised a conservative strain of Islam. She had described being raped in a book published in 2016, without naming her attacker. But in October, she said she had decided to name Ramadan publicly as the alleged perpetrator as a result of the “Me Too” campaign, using the French hashtag “Balance Ton Porc” (Expose your pig).

He has also denied allegations in Swiss media of sexual misconduct against teenage girls in the 1980s and 1990s, denouncing them as “a campaign of lies launched by my adversaries”.

She said Ramadan raped her in his hotel room, telling Le Parisien newspaper: “He choked me so hard that I thought I was going to die.” She lodged a rape complaint against Ramadan on October 20. Several days later an unidentified disabled woman, a Muslim convert, also accused the academic of raping her in a hotel room in the southeastern city of Lyon in 2009.

Vanity Fair magazine, which met the woman, said her lawsuit against Ramadan described “blows to the face and body, forced sodomy, rape with an object and various humiliations, including being dragged by the hair to the bathtub and urinated on”.

During three hours of testimony in Paris on Thursday, the woman — using the pseudonym “Christelle” — recounted her allegations to the judge in Ramadan’s presence. She also revealed that Ramadan had a small scar on his groin that would not have been noticed except in the case of close contact, a source said.

Rejecting her testimony, the scholar refused to sign the official summary of the account, sources close to the case said. “Both sides maintained their positions,” one of the sources said.

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Campaign of Lies

During three months of investigations after the allegations emerged, police interviewed dozens of people close to both Ramadan and the two women, and examined email and social media exchanges between them.

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The accusations have sparked heated online debate between supporters of Ramadan, who commands a following of more than two million fans on Facebook, and his opponents.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk