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Prosecutors demand trial for French director over alleged abuse of actor

Adele Haenel, one of France's most acclaimed actresses, is credited with helping break silence over sexual abuse in the French film industry (Thomas SAMSON)
Adele Haenel, one of France's most acclaimed actresses, is credited with helping break silence over sexual abuse in the French film industry (Thomas SAMSON)

French prosecutors have requested a trial for film director Christophe Ruggia, who has been charged with sexually assaulting an actor when she was a minor, sources told AFP on Thursday.

The prosecutors' request came as fresh revelations of harassment have prompted new questions about instances of sexual violence in French society, particularly in the art world.

Contacted by AFP, the director's lawyers declined to comment.

In 2020, Ruggia, now 59, was charged over accusations that he sexually assaulted actress Adele Haenel when she was a minor.

Haenel, now 34, lodged a complaint against Ruggia after accusing him of subjecting her to "constant sexual harassment" from the age of 12 to 15, including "forced kisses on the neck" and touching.

Ruggia directed her in the 2002 movie "The Devils", her first film role.

Her accusations at the time stunned the French film industry, which has been slower than Hollywood to react to the #MeToo movement turning the spotlight on sexual abuse in the arts.

In a statement to Mediapart, an investigative online media outlet, which broke the story of the affair, Haenel praised the move.

"It is a stage of the judicial process but, obviously, it is important," she said.

Haenel said she was satisfied that her statements had been found to be "consistent, precise and unvarnished."

She also said she was "upset" by the case of fellow actor Judith Godreche who this week accused two French directors of sexually abusing her when she was a teenager.

French prosecutors opened a probe this week after Godreche, now 51, accused filmmaker Benoit Jacquot of raping her during a six-year-long relationship that started when she was 14 and he was 25 years her senior. She also accused another director, Jacques Doillon, of sexually abusing her when she was 15.

According to sources close to Haenel's case, her young age at the time of the alleged facts and Ruggia's position of authority are considered aggravating circumstances.

Ruggia at first strongly denied he had done anything wrong, but after being expelled from the French directors' guild he once led, he admitted to having made "errors".

Newly released footage of film star Gerard Depardieu making obscene comments sparked an outcry in the country in December. The uproar intensified after President Emmanuel Macron said the actor had become the target of a "manhunt".

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