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Sexual abuse defamation trial: Former French Green Party chief regrets silence

Bertrand Guay, AFP | Leader of the Green party Europe-Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV) Cécile Duflot (R) listens to EELV deputy mayor of Paris Denis Baupin (L) at the party’s summer conference on August 19, 2011, in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

Former officials of France’s Green Party (Europe Ecologie Les Verts) say they should have acted earlier on reports of sexual misconduct by an ex-lawmaker accused by six women of harassment and abuse.

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The ex-politicians were testifying Thursday at a Paris trial prompted by Denis Baupin, a former Green Party politician and Paris city official who has brought a defamation case against the women.

In 2016, French media published accounts from 14 women who alleged Baupin had groped, sexted and otherwise harassed them. Baupin denied wrongdoing and sued the women named in the reports.

Party chief aware of other allegations

Former party chief Cécile Duflot told the court Thursday she suffered an attempted sexual assault from Baupin on the threshold of her hotel room during a world ecology congress in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 2008 and was aware of other incidents related to Baupin. Duflot told the court she regretted not speaking out partly to protect the party.

Green Party member Annie Lahmer – who now serves on the Paris regional council – alleged that Baupin chased her around an office desk in 1999, when the two worked together.

The lawsuit arose from reports by investigative website Mediapart and radio station France Inter based on the 14 women’s accounts. The alleged harassment took place from 1998 to 2013.

'Classified as criminal'

Four of the women filed criminal complaints against the former MP for sexual harassment. But a nine-month judicial investigation ended without charges after prosecutors were forced to drop the case because it exceeded the statute of limitations.

“It would appear that the offences reported, according to the witnesses’ measured, consistent and corroborated statements, can be classified as criminal. However, the statute of limitations has expired,” then Paris prosecutor François Molins said in a press release.

Baupin brought legal action against the six women named in the reports, four journalists who published the allegations against him and two men who were quoted saying they witnessed some of the alleged misbehavior.

The trial began on Monday.

In France, defamation is punishable by a maximum fine of 45,000 euros ($51,500).

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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