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France

French ex-minister Georges Tron and deputy cleared of ‘threesome rape’ of employees during foot massages

  • Georges Tron and Brigitte Gruel were accused by two employees of raping them in Tron’s office after he forced foot massages on them
  • The court said no evidence of coercion had been produced by the accusers of Tron, an amateur reflexologist dubbed the ‘Chinese masseur’ by MPs
PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 1:19am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 5:05am

A French court on Thursday acquitted former government minister Georges Tron of raping two employees as he conducted foot-massaging sessions on them in his office.

Tron, who served as junior minister for the civil service, was forced to resign in 2011 over the allegations made by two women who worked for him at the town hall of the southern Paris suburb of Draveil.

The women accused Tron, who is mayor of Draveil, and his former deputy, Brigitte Gruel, of abusing them during foot reflexology sessions in Tron’s office between 2007 and 2010 that turned into threesomes.

After a four-week trial Tron and Gruel, both aged 61, were acquitted of the charges.

Virginie Ettel, 41, and Eva Loubrieu, 44, testified that they felt powerless to resist being groped and penetrated digitally by Tron because they were afraid of losing their jobs. They said Gruel took part in some of the sessions.

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Ettel later resigned, while Loubrieu was fired after being accused of theft.

Reacting to the verdict, Ettel expressed “huge disappointment” and said: “I will not give up the battle I have been fighting for years.”

The prosecution, which had called for Tron to be given a six-year prison sentence, has 10 days to appeal.

Tron, who practises reflexology as a hobby, and Gruel had denied the allegations, claiming they were part of a political smear campaign.

The accusations emerged days after Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former French head of the International Monetary Fund, was arrested in New York in May 2011 on charges of attempting to rape a hotel maid.

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The criminal case against Strauss-Kahn later fell apart and he settled the civil case out of court.

But the affair had a knock-on effect in France, leading several women to break their silence about alleged harassment or assault by politicians and other public figures.

In its judgment, the court, made up of three magistrates and six jurors, declared it “proven” that there had been a highly charged sexual atmosphere at the Draveil town hall, but ruled that “no evidence of coercion” had been produced.

Tron and Gruel had vehemently denied all the charges; Tron claimed he was “totally innocent” and the case was a plot by far-right political opponents.

Gruel told the court: “I’ve lived this horror for seven years. Me and my family have been through hell. These accusations are totally false. I’m the victim of professional and personal revenge and jealousy.”

During the four-week trial Tron insisted the “resentment” of the former town hall workers had been exploited by far-right political rivals.

Advocate General Frédéric Bernardo, told the court Tron had “abused his power over his subordinates” then tried to “politicise a purely sexual affair”.

“There was an omerta around him … if someone was no longer part of the group they were sidelined. There were many victims in all that. He was a mayor who had a good image of being capable of doing anything,” Bernardo, said.

He said the two victims had been “turned into objects”.

“Faced with their suffering the response was to make a case and claims against them. There was a perverse mechanism at work in this case.”

Tron’s lawyer, Antoine Vey, denounced a trial based on “rumour”. He said the case had been constructed “around myths … and an accumulation of nothing at all”.

Tron, who has described himself as a trained reflexologist, was known as the “Chinese masseur” among MPs in the Assemblée Nationale.

Additional reporting by The Guardian