French justice will investigate sexual assault charges against Nicolas Hulot
The Paris prosecutor’s office is due to investigate a former French environment minister under President Emmanuel Macron into allegations of rape and sexual assault, after several women have brought charges dating back decades.
Nicolas Hulot, a popular environmental activist who first rose to prominence in France as a television presenter in a series on nature, made a brief stint in the French cabinet when Macron came to power in 2017.
He was one of the most publicized examples of Macron’s attempts to bring new blood into politics, but resigned just over a year after taking office, saying he was disappointed with the slow pace of change in matters. green policies.
Four women testified and accused Hulot of sexual assault in a televised investigation broadcast Thursday on France 2. Two other women also came forward, said France 2. One of the women filmed said she was 16 when she met Hulot and he had attempted to force oral sex on her after winning an invitation to attend her television show in 1989. Some of the alleged assaults are as recent as in 2001.
Prosecutors said on Friday that the preliminary inquiry would seek to establish whether criminal charges should be laid and whether the statute of limitations, which would normally mean they cannot be prosecuted, still applied.
Hulot dismissed the allegations, which had started to surface before the investigation even aired, and told BFM TV on Thursday: “I have never seduced anyone by force.”
Former candidate for the head of the French environmental party, Hulot has declared that he will leave politics for good.
France was initially seen as harboring a divided response to the #MeToo movement that has swept the world following allegations of sexual assault against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. While a young generation of feminists launched a French version of the campaign on social media – #balancetonporc, literally “rat out your pig” – leading figures such as Catherine Deneuve signed a letter defending men’s rights to “harass” women.
But since then, more and more French cases have emerged, with various #MeToo-style campaigns hitting high-level political circles, television personalities and members of the French intelligentsia.
Before prosecutors intervened, some politicians questioned the precedent the Hulot case could set, with French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti telling LCI radio that “justice should not be done on television or on social networks “.
But Hulot’s response to the allegations also drew criticism, with some former allies distancing themselves from him.
In the televised investigation, Hulot does not appear in front of the camera but responds to reporters by phone, saying that there is no point in retaliating, and that women’s words are “sacred”.
“The words of men are called into question. So it’s not even worth defending yourself anymore, ”said Hulot.
Elisabeth Moreno, in charge of gender equality in the government, criticized Hulot on Twitter for his sarcastic attitude when defending himself on television, when he joked about his physique and the fact that he had to to be an obstacle to the conquest of women.
Marlène Schiappa, former Minister for Gender Equality who now holds a post at the Ministry of the Interior, publicly supported her former colleague when another allegation of sexual assault against her surfaced in 2018. It concerned an old case that the judicial authorities had examined and dropped. On Friday, she said that “the two situations are different”.
Additional reporting by Domitille Alain in Paris