French justice investigates sexual assault allegations against Nicolas Hulot

Paris prosecutors will investigate a former French environment minister under President Emmanuel Macron over allegations of rape and sexual assault, after several women were accused decades ago.

Nicolas Hulot, a prominent environmental activist who first rose to fame in France as a TV presenter in a series about nature, had a brief stint in the French cabinet when Macron came to power in 2017.

He was one of the prime examples of Macron’s attempt to introduce new blood into politics, but quit his job just over a year ago, saying he was frustrated with the slow pace of change in green policies. .

The four women gave witness statements and accused Hulot of sexual assault during a television investigation that aired on France 2 on Thursday. Two other women also came forward, France 2 said. One of the women on camera said she was 16 years old when she met Hulot and that he tried to force oral sex on her after she won an invitation to his TV show last year. 1989. Some of the alleged attacks were as recent as 2001.

Prosecutors said Friday that the preliminary investigation will seek to determine whether there are criminal charges and whether the statute of limitations, which normally means they cannot be pursued, is is applicable or not.

Hulot has denied the allegations, which began to surface before the investigation aired, and told BFM TV on Thursday: “I have never seduced anyone by force.”

Once a candidate for leadership of France’s green party, Hulot said he would give up his political life for good.

At first, France was seen as the site of a divisive response to the #MeToo movement that was sweeping the world following sexual assault allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. While a younger generation of feminists started the French version of the social media campaign – #balancetonporc, which literally means “kill your pig” – celebrities like Catherine Deneuve signed a letter protect men’s right to “harass” women.

But since then, more cases in France have emerged, with various #MeToo-style campaigns hitting high-profile political circles, TV personalities and members of the political elite. French intelligentsia.

Before prosecutors stepped in, some politicians questioned the precedent the Hulot case might set, with French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti telling LCI radio that “justice should not be shown on TV or social media.”

But Hulot’s response to the allegations has also prompted criticism, with some former allies alienating him.

During the televised investigation, Hulot did not appear on camera but answered journalists by phone, saying that fighting back was of no use, and that the word women was “sacred”.

“Men’s words are called questions. So it’s not even worth defending anymore,” said Hulot.

Elisabeth Moreno, in charge of gender equality in the government, criticized Hulot on Twitter for his ironic attitude when defending himself on TV, when he joked about his physique and how it must be a hindrance to win over women.

Marlène Schiappa, a former gender equality minister who now holds a role in the Interior Ministry, publicly supported his former colleague when a separate sexual assault allegation against him surfaced in 2018. It concerns an old case that the judicial authorities have reviewed and reduced. On Friday, she said “two different situations”.

Additional reporting by Domitille Alain in Paris

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