Look, the first interrogation undertaken by investigating judges followed a preliminary investigation conducted over a period of three months. That preliminary inquiry yielded at least one certainty, that the accused had actually met at least one of the complainants.
In that country, when a person accused of a serious crime asserts, from the first interrogation, that he has never met the presumed victim, while the investigating judges have evidence to the contrary, the accused is routinely rendered into pre-trial detention. Witness the vast number of suspects held in pre-trial detention in that country at any given time.
Not only was his detention intended to relieve pressure on alleged victims, as repeatedly noted by the judges in their refusal to grant bail, it was also likely intended to intensify pressure on the suspect, to encourage him to recognise the facts.
The reality is that the accused was treated like any other suspect in that country, who denied certain facts that the investigating judges had already established to be true. Along with the presentation of a false alibi, contradicted by testimony and evidence previously confirmed in the preliminary investigation, this evasion of the truth was the direct cause of his detention for nearly a year.
Now that the suspect has finally confessed his lie and has explained it, the case moves on from its investigatory phase to a criminal trial held before members of a jury. It is for the judicial enquiry to establish whether the initial lie hid facts more serious than those that he belatedly recognised, or if there was nothing illegal in his actions whatsoever.
A cross-posted article published online today and shared widely by activists on social media claims that this case exposes the way in which minority communities face discriminatory treatment at the hands of European justice. A case can certainly be made for that.
But what the article does not recognise is that in other cases where people accused of sexual violence were not charged or detained, those suspects did not deny having a relationship with the complainants. In those cases, the judges were free to work on the core case: the question of consent and the boundaries between what was accepted and refused between the complainant and the accused.
Had the accused recognised his relationships with his accusers from the first interrogation, instead of holding until the very last moment that each of them was a deceitful liar, it is likely that he would have enjoyed similar treatment to those other suspects and, quite possibly, would not have been detained at all. Though on that point, of course, we can never be certain.
One thing we can be certain of, however, is that the authors of this article consider the complainants non-persons. For they claim that this case “starkly exposes the unequal way in which minority communities are afforded protections” — while completely ignoring the fact that the complainants themselves belonged to minority groups. All three claim to have been Muslim at the time of the relationships, two are of North African descent, and the other is of mixed French and West African heritage.
Did French law, however imperfect (and nobody denies its shortcomings) afford these women protections as members of a minority community bringing serious accusations against an influential individual with millions of followers? Ignoring the other 20,000 people held in pre-trial detention in that country, the authors continue to assert that the suspect was locked up without due process, “without taking into account the impact that it has had on his career, his health, his family, his community and on broader European society.”
It is interesting that these authors have decided which of the parties are deserving of minority rights advocacy. Not ethnic minority women who for a year were described as mythomaniacs inventing lies about their relationship with the accused. On the contrary, as soon as the allegations surfaced a year ago, allies of the accused — virtually all vocal Muslims online — were on hand to strip the complainants of their communal connections, by associating them with zionism, white supremacy and apostasy. Such is our tendentious advocacy.