Former French minister Georges Tron probed over rape

Georges Tron 22 May 2011)
Image caption Georges Tron has denied having "any relations of a sexual nature with the victims

A former French minister, Georges Tron, has been placed under formal investigation over rape and sexual assault charges after two days of questioning by prosecutors.

He is accused of assaulting women working for him at the Draveil town hall, where he is mayor.

Two women have filed complaints against Mr Tron, while a third has appeared as a witness but not filed a complaint.

The 53-year-old, who denies the accusations, was released on bail.

His assistant for culture at the mayor's office, Brigitte Gruel, was also placed under formal investigation on rape and sexual assault charges and given a conditional release.

Under French law, this is the first step that may lead to formal charges.

Prosecutor Marie-Suzanne Le Queau told the AFP news agency that Mr 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 were "coherent" and "corroborated on some points by outside elements".

The women have alleged that Mr Tron forced them to let him give them foot massages, which became forced sexual encounters.

Mr Tron resigned as junior civil service minister at the end of last month over the allegations. He remains mayor of Draveil.

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