French minister quits government to defend himself against rape claims

A French minister has left the government to defend himself against rape allegations.

Damien Abad confirmed on Monday that he would no longer serve as French Minister for Solidarity and the Disabled.

The 42-year-old is being investigated by prosecutors in Paris after two women accused him of attempted rape, dating back to 2010.

Abad has denied the claims “in the strongest possible terms”, saying his own condition of arthrogryposis would have made it impossible for him to have carried out the acts described. 

“It seemed preferable, in the face of the vile slander of which I am the target … that I should be able to defend myself without hindering the action of the government,” Abad said on Monday.

“I will defend myself relentlessly until justice confirms my innocence,” he added in a short speech.

He has been replaced in the reshuffled French government by Jean-Christophe Combe but will remain a French MP for Ain.

President Emmanuel Macron had been facing increased pressure to dismiss Abad after the rape allegations first emerged.

Chrysoula Zacharpoulou, French Minister of State for Development, has also been accused of sexual violence during her former profession as a gynaecologist. She too is being investigated by Paris prosecutors.

Macron was forced to reshuffle his government for the second time in six weeks after losing his parliamentary majority in June’s elections.

Former health minister Olivier Véran was appointed government spokesperson, while former Europe minister Clément Beaune was named France’s new transport minister.

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne is expected to present the new government’s programme in the national assembly on Wednesday.

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