Macron’s new government grapples with rape allegations against minister

Damien Abad, France’s newly appointed minister for solidarity and disabled people, is facing intense scrutiny following accusations of rape from two women, as first revealed in an investigation by French news outlet Mediapart on Saturday. 

The allegations cast a shadow over the first meeting of French President Emmanuel Macron’s new Cabinet on Monday.

Both women accused Abad of forcing them to have unwanted sexual relationships with him in late 2010 and early 2011, Mediapart reported. One of the accusers filed two complaints with police in 2012 and 2017 but they were later closed with no action taken.

Abad strongly denied the allegations on Sunday, saying that his arthrogryposis, a condition that affects the limbs, would make it physically impossible for him to commit rape.

Following Monday’s Cabinet meeting, the government’s new spokesperson Olivia Grégoire suggested that Abad’s position was not under threat following the allegations, although she did not give a definitive answer on the matter. “The issue here is the establishment of the truth. It is for the justice system to establish the truth. It is not up to me, and I don’t think it is up to you either,” Grégoire told the press corps.

France’s newly appointed Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said over the weekend that she was “obviously” not “aware” of the allegations before publication, according to POLITICO’s Playbook Paris.

“If there are new elements, if the case is brought before the courts again, we will draw all the consequences of this decision,” Borne said, adding that on the subject of sexual harassment and assault, “there can be no impunity.”

Asked whether Macron was aware of the matter, Grégoire said that “to my knowledge, no member of the government was aware of these facts” prior to Mediapart’s article.

Macron appointed his new top team on Friday, as he enters his second term in office.