Rape suspect Tariq Ramadan loses bid for release ahead of trial

Paris (AFP) –


The Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, who is being held in France over rape allegations by three women, has lost his bid for early release ahead of trial, his lawyer told AFP.

Judges had already refused bail for the 55-year-old Ramadan, who is being treated behind bars for multiple sclerosis, as well as a request for release on health grounds.

"We were informed of the decision today and I immediately lodged an appeal," his lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny said late Monday, calling the decision "incredible".

The prominent TV pundit and Oxford University professor, whose grandfather founded Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement, has been held since February on charges that he raped two Muslim women in France.

In early March, a third woman came forward claiming Ramadan had raped her in Brussels in 2013 and 2014, accusing him of subjecting her to violent and sexually degrading acts during a dozen meetings.

Meanwhile a fourth woman has filed rape charges in Geneva against Ramadan, who is a Swiss citizen.

His supporters -- including two million Facebook followers -- have lashed out angrily at his arrest, with many complaining that he has been unfairly targeted because he is Muslim.

"Prosectors, the investigating magistrate and the liberty and custody judge are refusing to take into account the elements that support his case," Marsigny said, again denouncing what he called "lies" and inconsistencies by Ramadan's accusers.

"This decision shows the lack of impartiality by all the legal representatives -- police and judges -- involved in this case," he said.

Eric Morain, a lawyer for one of Ramadan's accusers, dismissed what he called claims of a "conspiracy theory".

"They go around saying our clients contradict one another and lie, but why did the judges make this decision -- Are they being manipulated?" Morain told AFP.

Investigating magistrates are expected to soon question Ramadan's first accuser, Henda Ayari, 41, a feminist activist who previously practised a conservative strain of Islam, and who says Ramadan raped her in a Paris hotel room in 2012.

A second woman, who is disabled, claims that Ramadan raped and beat her in a hotel in the southeastern city of Lyon in 2009.

The third accuser, a French Muslim woman who is using the pseudonym "Marie", claims to have suffered multiple rapes in France, Brussels and London between 2013 and 2014.