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French prosecutors place duo in sex tape scandal under formal investigation

Pyotr Pavlensky and Alexandra de Taddeo, at left
Pyotr Pavlensky and Alexandra de Taddeo, at left © Screen grab

French prosecutors placed Pyotr Pavlensky and Alexandra de Taddeo, the couple suspected of publishing a racy video alleged to be of former Paris mayoral candidate Benjamin Griveaux, under formal investigation on Tuesday. 

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French prosecutors earlier on Tuesday placed de Taddeo, 29, under formal investigation for invasion of privacy and publishing images of a sexual nature without consent.

De Taddeo was the recipient of the video that prompted the ruling party's Benjamin Griveaux to abruptly pull out of the race for mayor of Paris last week. She is being investigated for the leaking of a video sent in 2018 that showed a man masturbating along with racy text messages.

Pavlensky, a Russian activist who was granted political asylum in France in 2017, has admitted to uploading the images onto a purpose-built website, saying he wanted to expose the "hypocrisy" of Griveaux, a married father of three.

Pavlensky, 35, is also facing legal action over the affair that ended the campaign of the former government spokesman – the first senior French politician to bow out of an election over a sex scandal.

Pavlensky and de Taddeo were taken into custody in Paris on Saturday and questioned for two days. De Taddeo was released on Tuesday and ordered to refrain from contact with Pavlensky.

The young woman, a law student who speaks several languages including Russian, is thought to possess other videos from Griveaux, according to a source close to the investigation.

Her lawyer, Noémie Saidi-Cottier, confirmed that her client had received the messages from Griveaux but denied that she had kept them with a view to using them against him.

"She kept them to keep them," she said, adding that she was "not behind the publication of the images".

Pavlensky, who was still being questioned Tuesday evening, is also being investigated over a knife fight at a New Year's Eve party in Paris.

Pavlensky was not placed under formal investigation for the New Year’s affair, according to his lawyer.

The activist said as he left the courthouse that he hoped to continue disseminating sex videos of "civil servants, politicians, representatives of power".

The leaking of the video triggered an outpouring of sympathy for Griveaux in France, where politicians and the media have dismissed sex scandals as private affairs.

Pavlensky, who made global headlines in 2013 when he nailed his scrotum to Red Square in Moscow as a form of political protest, told AFP last week that he had wanted to expose the “hypocrisy” of the 42-year-old politician who had made families a core theme of his campaign.

The activist, who has a long record of radical protests, received asylum in France after falling foul of Russian authorities.

With just a month to go until the municipal elections, former health minister Agnès Buzyn was scrambled to take his place as the Paris mayoral candidate of Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party.

She faces a stiff challenge to oust the Socialist incumbent Anne Hidalgo – Griveaux was already running in a distant third place before the video emerged.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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