French court grants bail to Tariq Ramadan in sexual assault case

A Paris appeals court grants prominent Islamic scholar conditional release after 10 months in detention.

    Ramadan's supporters have rejected the allegations, characterising them as part of a concerted effort to defame the academician [Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA-EFE]
    Ramadan's supporters have rejected the allegations, characterising them as part of a concerted effort to defame the academician [Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA-EFE]

    Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Islamic scholar, has been released on bail after being held in detention for nearly 10 months over charges of sexual assault, his lawyer said.

    A Paris Court of Appeal granted the 56-year-old Swiss academic bail on Thursday even as the investigation into the case continues.

    "Where would I flee to," he asked during his hearing, his first public appearance since the arrest in February.

    His bail was set at 300,000 euros ($340,000) and it requires him to hand over his passport and report to police once a week.

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    Ramadan, who is accused of rape on two separate counts, has long denied having sexual relations with the plaintiffs.

    One accuser is a disabled woman identified in media reports as Christelle, and the other is a feminist activist, Henda Ayari.

    That changed last month when Ramadan admitted that encounters did take place but that the acts in question were consensual.

    'I am not a rapist' 

    In the court on Thursday, Ramadan said he did not intend to become a fugitive from the law, adding his multiple sclerosis meant he couldn't walk properly.

    "I will remain in France and defend my honour and my innocence," he told the judges in what was his fourth bid to secure freedom.

    "I would like you to make your decision from your conscience, not because my name is Tariq Ramadan and I'm demonised in this country."

    His lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny told Reuters news agency, "Ramadan's release... demonstrated that the rape accusations against him were lies."

    Ramadan also faces criminal complaints of rape by women in the United States and Switzerland.

    Once hailed as a religious reformer, Ramadan's career has been brought to a halt since his arrest earlier this year.

    He portrayed his accusers as liars bending media attention in the case to their benefit, asking: "Who has instrumentalised the 'Me Too' movement?"

    "I have never raped, I am not a rapist. It's true that I made a mistake," he said.

    But Ayari's lawyer Francis Szpiner said the two "women were regularly threatened".

    Ramadan, whose grandfather founded Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, was a professor at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when the rape allegations surfaced at the height of the #MeToo movement late last year.

    His supporters have strenuously rejected the allegations, characterising them as part of a concerted effort to defame the academic.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies