Paris: A former French minister and mayor with the ruling party has been charged with rape after accusations he sexually assaulted women working for him at city hall, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Georges Tron, formerly a junior civil service minister from President Nicolas Sarkozy`s UMP party, is facing charges of rape and sexual assault by "a person in authority", prosecutor Marie-Suzanne Le Queau said after he appeared before judges in a court in Evry, outside Paris.
Tron was released on bail. The crimes are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Tron, 53, was arrested on Monday following allegations that he sexually assaulted women who worked in the town hall in Draveil, south of Paris, where he is mayor.
Two women who worked with him at city hall filed complaints against Tron while a third, a former parliamentary aide, has appeared as a witness and also made accusations, but has not made a formal complaint.
His assistant for culture at the mayor`s office, Brigitte Gruel, was also charged with rape and sexual assault and given a conditional release.
Le Queau said Tron had denied having "any relations of a sexual nature with the victims, even relations that would have been consensual."
She said, however, that statements from the two plaintiffs, aged 34 and 36, were "coherent" and "corroborated on some points by outside elements”.
Tron`s lawyer Olivier Schnerb said the conditions for his release include that he is not allowed to meet with any of his accusers.
He said Tron insisted on his innocence and is convinced he will be acquitted. Being charged, Schnerb said, "has never made anyone guilty".
The two plaintiffs alleged that Tron forced them to let him give them foot massages, which turned into forced sexual encounters.
Tron`s resignation from the government on May 29 came amid a wave of soul-searching over sex and secrecy in public life after the French IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn`s arrest in New York on sex crime charges.
Strauss-Kahn resigned as head of the global lender after his arrest.
Tron alleged his political rivals were trying to gain momentum from the arrest of Strauss-Kahn.