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Prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan testifies over rape accusations

AFP archive | Tariq Ramadan during a conference in Bordeaux, March 26, 2016

Tariq Ramadan, a prominent scholar of Islam, on Tuesday appeared before judges in Paris for the first time since he was put under formal investigation in February on charges he raped two women in France.

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Ramadan, 55, has been in policy custody since he was placed under formal investigation on February 2. In early March, a third woman came forward to accuse him of multiple rapes between 2013 and 2014, though Ramadan's lawyer said Tuesday that the allegation had been dismissed by judges.

A fourth woman has also filed rape charges against Ramadan in his hometown of Geneva, Switzerland.

Ramadan adamantly denies the charges and has filed a lawsuit for defamation against one of his accusers, French activist and author Henda Ayari, who described her rape without naming her attacker in a 2016 book on how she was drawn to radical Islam.

Ramadan, whose grandfather Hassan al-Banna founded the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, is a theologian, philosopher and religious commentator. A professor of contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, he is the author of several books on Islam.

While some experts have held Ramadan up as the face of a more modern and inclusive version of the religion, others speculate he has hidden his true, radical views behind a carefully crafted public image.

The women’s accusations have seriously damaged Ramadan’s reputation, leading him to take a leave of absence from his teaching job at Oxford. He has been denied bail on two occasions. And a request for early release on health grounds (Ramadan suffers from multiple sclerosis) has also been refused.

‘Media lynching’

Ramadan’s family has stood by his side throughout the ordeal. His eldest daughter, Maryam Ramadam, slammed the proceedings as a “media lynching” in an exclusive interview published by French newspaper Libération on Monday.

“I have a lot of questions about how my father’s case has been handled,” Maryam Ramadan said. “He has been considered guilty since the beginning.”

Asked if she ever had any doubts about the case, Maryam replied: “About my father, no. About the justice system, yes.”

Ramadan was first accused in October by Ayari, who says Ramadan raped her in a Paris hotel room in 2012.

The second woman, who is disabled and goes by the pseudonym "Christelle", claims that Ramadan raped and beat her in a hotel in the southeastern city of Lyon in 2009.

His third accuser, Mounia Rabbouj, a former escort who was also involved in a 2015 case for “aggravated pimping” against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, claims to have been raped on nine occasions in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom between 2013 and 2014.

Speaking after Tuesday's hearing, Ramadan's lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny said his client had produced evidence that his relationship with Rabbouj was consensual and would therefore not face further charges.

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