France investigates rape of soldier at Élysée palace

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, French media report the accused and the alleged victim knew each other

French prosecutors have opened an investigation into an alleged rape at the presidential palace in Paris.

Local media report a female soldier has said she was sexually assaulted after a drinks reception at the Élysée palace in July.

President Emmanuel Macron had earlier attended the event, held for departing staff.

The accused – also a soldier – has been questioned, but has not yet been formally charged, reports say.

Newspaper Libération first reported the accusation on Friday.

Both the alleged victim and accused attacker reportedly worked at a high-security staff office in the building, and Libération said they knew each other.

A presidential official told the AFP news agency that "as soon as the authorities were aware of these claims, measures were immediately taken" to support the alleged victim.

Both she and the accused have been moved to other duties, the palace has said.

On the evening of 1 July, there was a drinks party at the Elysée to bid farewell to a departing senior officer – a member of President Macron's personal military staff.

The president himself made a short address before leaving, but afterwards it's alleged that the drinking continued.

It was then that a woman soldier claimed that she was sexually assaulted by one of her colleagues.

She lodged a formal complaint at a police station the next day, and shortly afterwards a criminal investigation was launched.

The alleged assailant was placed under the status of "assisted witness", which is a step short of actually being charged.

In recent years, a number of sexual assault scandals have rocked French society.

Mr Macron has vowed to tackle the problem of violence against women, and his government introduced a new law setting the age of consent at 15 in response to the scandals this March.

He is expected to stand for a second term as president in elections scheduled for April 2022, although he has yet to declare his candidacy.

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To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Media caption, Women discuss street harassment in France

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