June 12, 2020 / 3:03 AM / 2 months ago

French court orders reopening of investigation into rape allegation against minister - source

FILE PHOTO: French Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin attends a news conference after the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France April 15, 2020. Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - The Paris appeal court on Tuesday ordered the reopening of an investigation into a rape allegation against budget minister Gerald Darmanin, two years after a judge dismissed the case, a judicial source told Reuters on Thursday, confirming media reports.

The court decision means that an investigating judge will now decide whether there is a case to pursue with a formal investigation, after it was previously dismissed after just a preliminary probe.

The source said the decision was not the result of new evidence being found against Darmanin, who denies rape.

Lawyers for Darmanin said in a statement the ruling was a matter of legal processing.

They also said the budget minister has filed a complaint for slander.

France’s highest court Cour de Cassation ruled in November that an appeal court had to look again at whether a judge’s decision to dismiss the investigation was valid.

The initial inquiry into the allegations against Darmanin, who is a close political ally of President Emmanuel Macron, was dropped in August 2018 when prosecutors, said they could not establish “absence of consent”.

A woman accused the budget minister of coercing her into having sex in 2009 when she sought his help in having her criminal record cleared. She appealed against the decision to drop the investigation but the Paris appeal court had said she did so too late.

Reporting by Matthieu Protard; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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