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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

New sexual assault complaint against Tariq Ramadan in the US

The Oxford University professor was detained on February 2 over charges he raped two women in France

Rape-accused Tariq Ramadan has been in custody in France since February 2. REUTERS
Rape-accused Tariq Ramadan has been in custody in France since February 2. REUTERS

Tariq Ramadan has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Washington, USA, in the latest in a string of damning allegations against the prominent Islamic scholar.

According to French newspaper Libération, the complaint, which refers to an alleged incident dating back to 2013, was filed last month with Washington police. The complainant, a 30-year-old Muslim American, now lives in Kuwait and has requested to remain anonymous.

Mr Ramadan, an Oxford University professor whose grandfather founded Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement, was detained on February 2 over charges he raped two women in France, which he denies.

Last week, a third woman, who wants to remain anonymous and uses the pseudonym "Marie", claimed to have suffered multiple rapes in France, Brussels and London between 2013 and 2014.

The latest complaint, concerning the alleged incident in Washington, is the first to emerge outside of Europe. There is not yet a prosecution, and an investigation is ongoing.

The complaint does not mention Mr Ramadan’s identity, but a police source contacted by Libération confirmed that it is aimed at the 55-year-old Swiss theologian.

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According to Libération, the woman, who worked for the US Department of Defence, first started corresponding with Mr Ramadan via Facebook in March 2012.

They met at a conference in Washington in August 2013, where the woman suggested going for lunch. However, she eventually agreed to meet him in a hotel room at around 2 a.m. on 31 August 2013.

It was at this point that she claims Mr Ramadan sexually assaulted her. She accuses him of placing his genitals against her chest, and insists it was against her will.

Mr Ramadan’s lawyer Jonas Haddad confirmed to Libération that he has been in touch with the complainant from the US. “I was in touch with her about two months ago through American sources,” he said. The discussions, he added, centred around the possible procedure to be initiated in the US.

A police source in the US capital told Libération that the investigation is ongoing. If there is sufficient evidence to recommend an indictment, then it will be up to the federal prosecutor to decide whether to launch a lawsuit against Mr Ramadan on behalf of the District of Columbia.

Mr Ramadan remains in custody in Fleury-Mérogis prison, Essonne, as French authorities judge him a flight risk.

His two initial accusers went to police in late October, both alleging that he had raped them in French hotel rooms.

Henda Ayari, 41, said she decided to accuse him publicly after the "Me Too" campaign against sexual abuse and harassment encouraged her to speak out.

Ms Ayari, a feminist activist who previously practised a conservative strain of Islam, says Mr Ramadan raped her in a Paris hotel room in 2012.

The second accuser, a disabled woman, alleges that Mr Ramadan raped her and beat her in a hotel in the southeastern city of Lyon in 2009.

A court dismissed a bid by Mr Ramadan last month to be released on health grounds, after his lawyers argued his multiple sclerosis and nerve damage could not be adequately treated behind bars.

A professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford, Mr Ramadan has been on leave since November after the allegations emerged.

One of European Islam's best-known figures, he has dismissed the accusations against him as a smear campaign by his enemies and his lawyers argue there are inconsistencies in the women's accounts.