Saturday, October 16

Outrage against French mayor convicted of rape continues to run city from cell | France

Feminist groups have expressed outrage that a French mayor jailed for rape is still allowed to rule his city from his cell.

Georges Tron, who once served as junior minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, was jailed in February for the rape and sexual assault of a junior staff member at his city hall in Draveil, south of Paris.

The 63-year-old mayor received a five-year prison sentence, two of which were suspended, and the court cited the “moral restraint” he had on the employee in a subordinate role. He denied the charges and filed an appeal with the highest court in France.

From his prison cell, Tron has refused to quit his job as mayor and continues to lead the city of 30,000 people, communicating with his team by letter and describing his incarceration simply as a “deterrent.”

This week’s city council meeting began with the Tron team reading aloud a letter sent from their cell with instructions on the city budget. It provoked the ire of opposition politicians.

Gabrielle Boeri-Charles, of the opposition group Transition Démocratique, Écologique et Sociale, said that Tron no longer had the “moral authority” to rule the city.

On the street outside the meeting, feminist groups protested with a model of Tron behind bars. The protesters said his refusal to resign was “scandalous” and “disgusting”.

A online petition of the feminist groups Osez le Féminisme and the European Association against Violence against Women at Work (AVFT) is calling on the government to issue a decree removing Tron from office. They said it was “inconceivable” for a convicted and incarcerated rapist to remain in charge of local and city police. Nous Toutes, a collective against violence against women, asked Prime Minister Jean Castex this week: “What are you waiting for?”

The government has refused to take action. Last month, there was an explosive exchange in the Senate when Socialist Senator Laurence Rossignol demanded the government remove Tron from office. Éric Dupond-Moretti, the high-profile criminal defense attorney who was appointed as justice minister by Emmanuel Macron last year, said the government could not act because an appeal was underway. He said it was “heresy” to suggest that the government intervene.

Rossignol noted that Dupond-Moretti had been Tron’s attorney when the rape case first went to trial in 2018. He told the Senate that he could not believe the government had chosen Dupond-Moretti to answer, when as attorney he had accused women of lying. and “he was still doing it today” by arguing that Tron should be found innocent during his appeal process. He said the government had the power to remove Tron, but had not.

In a first trial in 2018, Tron was acquitted of the rape and sexual assault of two women in 2007 and 2010. But an appeal trial in February this year confirmed the allegations of a woman and imprisoned Tron.

Following the guilty verdict in February, the city council issued a press release on behalf of Tron, who said that he refused to resign and that from his cell he would “fight to prove my innocence”.

The case had become a symbol of women in France speaking out against powerful politicians. The two women filed complaints against Tron days after former French International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested for the alleged attempted rape of a New York hotel worker in May 2011. They said the allegations against Strauss-Kahn they were encouraged to speak outside.

Despite the long-standing case, many voters in Draveil supported Tron in recent years, re-electing him mayor in 2020, for the fifth time since 1995.

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