French rugby players to be charged as rape accuser hospitalized

Natacha Romano, the lawyer of an Argentine woman who has accused two French international rugby players of rape, speaks during an interview with AFP (LUIS ROBAYO)
Natacha Romano, the lawyer of an Argentine woman who has accused two French international rugby players of rape, speaks during an interview with AFP (LUIS ROBAYO)

Two French international rugby players accused of raping and beating an Argentine woman -- who has since been hospitalized -- will be charged in the case, a judicial source told AFP on Thursday.

Hugo Auradou, 20, and Oscar Jegou, 21, were arrested Monday in Buenos Aires after the woman accused them of raping her multiple times and savagely beating her in a hotel room in the city of Mendoza after a match.

They have denied the accusation, and say sexual relations with the woman were consensual.

The players were transferred Thursday by car from Interpol's Buenos Aires headquarters to Mendoza, where they are expected to be formally charged on Friday.

Meanwhile, the 39-year-old woman's lawyer, Natacha Romano, said her client was hospitalized Thursday after feeling ill emotionally and physically "because of everything that happened."

Psychologist Nicolas Yungman, who was not treating the woman, told local media that her symptoms, as described, could be indicative of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The woman will receive treatment at a health facility for 24 to 48 hours, Romano said.

- House arrest? -

Auradou and Jegou will spend Thursday night at a police detention unit and be brought before prosecutor Cecilia Bignert at 9:00 am local time (1200 GMT) on Friday, Martin Ahumada, a spokesman for the Mendoza prosecutor's office, told AFP.

Upon being charged, the pair could be ordered held until a hearing 10 days later to determine whether they will have to await trial in custody.

Within the 10 days, the pair could bring an application to be released on probation or under house arrest, according to Ahumada.

The sentence for sexual assault in Argentina ranges from six to 15 years, according to the penal code. The penalty can increase to 20 years in the case of two aggressors.

Romano told AFP on Wednesday her client had suffered "fierce" violence at the hands of her assailants in a hotel room, with injuries to her face, back, breasts, legs and ribs as well as various bite and scratch marks.

The woman claims to have been raped "at least six times" by one of the men and once by the other, according to the lawyer.

She allegedly tried to escape several times.

- 'The violence was fierce' -

The accusations, which have left French rugby reeling and dominated news headlines in Argentina, came during a tour of South America by the French national squad.

The alleged attack took place Saturday night at the Diplomatic Hotel in Mendoza, where France's players and staff were staying after beating Argentina in a test match.

Romano told AFP the woman had gone with one of the men from a nightclub to a hotel room, where she alleges she was held against her will and abused for several hours.

"The violence was fierce," said Romano. "There is more than one crime to investigate."

Lawyer Rafael Cuneo Libarona, who represents the players, arrived in Mendoza on Wednesday and said "sexual relations" had been "consensual."

"There are witnesses who saw her leave (the hotel), there are cameras that saw her leave, apparently no injuries are seen in the footage," Libarona -- who is the brother of the country's justice minister Mariano Cuneo Libarona -- told journalists.

Romano told AFP "the overwhelming proof that there was no consent is the victim's body" and the wounds she bears.

If the men are charged, the lawyer added, she would ask the court to remand them in pre-trial custody.

The charge, said Romano, should be rape with use of violence.

French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Florian Grill, who is in Argentina, told AFP the players have "a quite different version" of events to that of the woman, with "a lot of inconsistencies."

"We are not judges, we are not investigators, but we think that the Argentine justice system should look at the case very quickly," he said.

Aradou and Jegou have been replaced by lock Mickael Guillard and flanker Judicael Cancoriet for Saturday's second test match against Argentina in Buenos Aires.