Mitterrand threatens legal action to clear his name

Frédéric Mitterrand, the French culture minister facing pressure to resign over a book in which he describes paying for "boys" in Thailand, has threatened to take legal action over what he describes as a "campaign of insensitive calumny".


AFP - French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was in the spotlight Saturday for standing as character reference for two rapists after a row over his admission of paying "boys" for sex.

Mitterrand, an urbane television personality and a nephew of former Socialist president Francois Mitterrand adopted a pugnacious tone and threatened legal action over what he said was a "new orchestrated campaign of insensitive calumny."

The minister "will launch legal action against those who are complicit in the latest ignominy he has suffered," a statement read out at a news conference in the southwestern town of Bordeaux quoted Mitterrand as saying.

The latest scandal emerged just after Mitterrand managed to retain his job following a fresh furore over his 2005 autobiographical novel "La Mauvaise Vie" (The Bad Life) in which the hero describes paying Asian boys for sex.

Mitterrand had angrily denied having ever engaged in paedophile acts or condoning sex tourism.

"I absolutely condemn sexual tourism (and) I condemn paedophilia in which I have never in any way participated, and all the people who accuse me of that type of thing should be ashamed," the 62 year old told TF1 television.

The latest controversy emerged after a French newspaper said Mitterrand had testified to the "good character" of two youths in the French overseas territory of La Reunion charged with the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl.

The minister on Saturday said he was godfather to one of the youths, whose mother is a former make-up artist, and underlined that his letter attesting to their good moral character was a "gesture of compassion and generosity" to a "modest" family in "great distress."

He underlined that he had met one of the youths "three times in (my) life."

"Is it not a shame that this letter has found its way in all the Internet networks?" he said, calling it an "ignominy," a "shame," and "manipulation."

Le Quotidien de la Reunion newspaper on Friday published a letter that Mitterrand, who was then director of the Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome, had written to the court.

The three youths were charged with rape and sentenced to between eight and 15 years in prison.

Said Larifou, one of the lawyers for the boys' families, told AFP he was filing a suit against the leaking of the letter, saying it "should never have appeared in the public domain."

The controversy over Mitterrand's book erupted this week after his staunch defence of fugitive film-maker Roman Polanski, arrested in Switzerland on a US warrant on child sex charges.

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