Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan faces rape accuser in court

Benjamin LEGENDRE
Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan was a professor at Oxford University until rape allegations surfaced at the height of the "Me Too" movement

Prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan faced one of his rape accusers for more than eight hours in a French court Tuesday as he seeks bail after seven months in custody on charges he furiously denies.

Ramadan, a frequent TV commentator, was a professor at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when the rape allegations surfaced at the height of the "Me Too" movement late last year.

The Swiss citizen, whose grandfather founded Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, was charged in France in February with raping two women in hotels in 2009 and 2012.

Swiss prosecutors have also opened an investigation into allegations that he raped a woman in a Geneva hotel in 2008, local media reported Sunday.

On Tuesday, he came face-to-face with a disabled woman who accuses him of attacking her in the eastern French city of Lyon in 2009.

She remains anonymous but is known in the media as "Christelle".

"It was a bitter confrontation" in which "everyone maintained their positions," her lawyer Eric Morain said.

"Ramadan sees enemies everywhere, he is a conspiracy theorist, and my client was able to look him in the eye and tell him that she was not his enemy but his victim," Morain said.

"She has carried this pain for 10 years."

Ramadan's lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny said his client firmly kept his stance that he had "never had sex with the complainant".

Ramadan, a 56-year-old married father of four, has dismissed the allegations against him as a smear campaign.

- Women 'sought religious advice' -

Ramadan again sought bail, arguing that being in prison is making it more difficult for him to receive treatment for multiple sclerosis.

In a video posted on Facebook Monday, his son Sami said his father had been "presumed guilty since the start" and that he appeared frail during a recent visit. "He needs assistance and a walking frame to move," he said in the video.

But judges have ruled that he has adequate care in the prison hospital at Fresnes in the southern Paris suburbs.

Ramadan was initially due to face Christelle at a hearing in mid-July but it was postponed after her lawyers said she was unwell.

At a previous hearing she described a scar on Ramadan's groin as proof they had a sexual encounter, but his lawyers have argued she could have obtained this detail from one of his former mistresses.

He has said he engaged in a flirtatious exchange of messages with the woman and met her for around half an hour in the hotel lobby, while she maintains that he raped and beat her in his room.

His other French accuser, a Muslim fundamentalist turned secular activist named Henda Ayari, went public with her allegations last October.

She said she was encouraged to speak out by the global torrent of sexual harassment and abuse stories unleashed by the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Both she and Christelle said they approached Ramadan, one of the best-known Islamic scholars in Europe, seeking religious advice.

Ramadan's lawyers have pointed to inconsistencies in Ayari's account of the alleged attack.

Another woman, French former call girl Mounia Rabbouj, has accused Ramadan of raping her several times in France as well as in London and Brussels between 2013 and 2014, but he has not been charged over those allegations.

He maintains he had a consensual affair with Rabbouj, describing relations that were "feisty" and involved "domination".