Swiss academic Tariq Ramadan goes on trial accused of rape

The prominent Swiss academic and Islam scholar Tariq Ramadan has gone on trial in Geneva on charges of rape and sexual coercion.

The 60-year-old told the court he denied allegations that he carried out an attack on a Swiss woman in a Geneva hotel in 2008.

Ramadan was a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at the University of Oxford before taking a leave of absence in 2017 when rape allegations were first made against him by French women, in what was seen as the biggest repercussion of the #MeToo movement in France. He has also denied those allegations.

The complainant in the Swiss case, who had converted to Islam in her youth, was 40 at the time of the alleged attack. She says she has faced threats and therefore wishes to be known under the assumed name of “Brigitte” during the trial.

She said she had met Ramadan at a book signing in Geneva and later at a conference. They had corresponded via social media. A few months later he had invited her for coffee at his hotel after a conference. Ramadan is charged with three counts of rape against Brigitte in his hotel room on 28 October 2008, and one count of sexual coercion. Ramadan is accused of subjecting her to brutal sexual acts as well as beatings and insults.

Ramadan, who could face up to 10 years in prison, denies all charges and told the court he was innocent. He said: “I’m here because I’m going to fight,” and denounced what he called “lies and manipulation” against him. He told the court he had multiple sclerosis and was currently receiving a monthly payment from Oxford.

“This trial is an ordeal for my client, not therapy,” the Swiss complainant’s French lawyer, François Zimeray, told AFP. “She is waiting for recognition of the suffering that she has lived with for 15 years and which she has made it a painful duty to reveal. She expects a difficult, painful confrontation but she is ready for it, convinced that this fight is a duty for her as much as an ordeal.”

The Swiss woman had filed a police complaint in Geneva after French women spoke to the media about alleged rapes by Ramadan in hotels in France.

The French state prosecutor last year called for Ramadan to stand trial in France for the alleged rapes of four women between 2009 and 2016. It will fall to French investigating judges to rule whether those cases should go to trial.

Ramadan was arrested in France in 2018 and spent nine months in prison on remand over the French rape allegations before being released on probation and barred from leaving the country. He was given exceptional authorisation to attend the Geneva trial this week.

In recent years, Ramadan had repeatedly said allegations of rape against him in France and Switzerland were a politically motivated plot and that he had been the victim of bias in the French justice system. The academic, who had advised successive British governments on Islam and society, denied all allegations.

The three-day trial in Geneva will be heard by a panel of judges who will return a verdict on 24 May.

The Guardian