National Assembly member accused in French sex scandal

EELV member Denis Baupin accused of sexual aggression and harassment

The Paris prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into "sexual aggression, sexual harassment and ill-intentioned telephone calls" allegedly committed by the ecologist member of the National Assembly, Denis Baupin.

Mr Baupin (53) resigned as deputy speaker of the assembly and withdrew from the ecologist group late on Monday, after four female officials from the green party EELV told the investigative website Mediapart and France Inter radio station that he had assaulted or harassed them. The scandal quickly became a critique of male politicians' behaviour towards women in general.

Libération newspaper on yesterday published an open letter signed by more than 500 female politicians. "The Denis Baupin Affair: Lift the Omerta," said the front page headline. "The silence of politicians reveals the power of impunity, that parties too often take no internal measures, that they have difficulty admitting that [sexual harassment] exists, even if, mezza voce, everyone knows it," the text said.

Feminist groups demonstrated outside the assembly yesterday evening to demand that Mr Baupin resign his deputy’s seat, and that men found guilty of sexual or marital violence be made ineligible for public office.

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Journalists’ investigation

Mr Baupin’s accusers include

Sandrine Rousseau

, spokeswoman for EELV, which Mr Baupin left several weeks ago, on learning of the journalists’ investigation. He has threatened to sue Mediapart and France Inter for “defamation”.

Ms Rousseau said that in October 2011, Mr Baupin followed her into a hall outside a party meeting. “He pushed me against the wall, grabbed my chest and tried to kiss me. I pushed back violently,” she said.

Ms Rousseau told a leading member of the party what had happened. “So, he’s at it again?” he replied.

Isabelle Attard, a deputy from Calvados, said she received "daily, salacious, provocative" text messages from Mr Baupin between mid-2012 and the end of 2013 and that "several women deputies received the same texts".

In 2013, political scientist Vanessa Jérome told the television programme Arrêt sur Images that a Green Party politician was known to have harrassed women for years. A female party leader had, she said, offered money to persuade female party staffers not to file complaints. "A sort of 'green DSK', this elected official seems to benefit from a form of indulgence that is not dissimilar to that enjoyed by Dominique Strauss-Kahn," Ms Jérome said.

Mr Baupin's wife, Emmanuelle Cosse, was general secretary of EELV from 2013 until 2016. She is now French minister for housing.

Yves Contassot, a Paris city councillor, said that when Mr Baupin's behaviour towards women was raised in the party, Ms Cosse said, "Stop. I forbid you to talk about it."

Ms Cosse said she learned of the accusations against her husband on Monday. “If these facts are true, they must be addressed through the justice system, Ms Cosse said. “And if they are not true, the justice system must also deal with it.”

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is Paris Correspondent of The Irish Times