Complainant’s lawyer speaks of ‘terrible violence’, defence says sex was ‘consensual’

The vice-president and president of the French Rugby Federation, Jean-Marc Lhermet and Florian Grill, in front of the Mendoza public prosecutor’s office in Argentina, on July 10, 2024. RAMIRO GOMEZ / REUTERS

Two days after the arrest of two French XV players accused of sexual assault, two versions are clashing. The complainant suffered a « violence terrible »his lawyer told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Wednesday, July 10. For his part, the lawyer for the two players claims that the sexual relations were “consented”.

Pau second row Hugo Auradou, 20, and La Rochelle third row Oscar Jegou, 21, left Buenos Aires during the day to be transferred to Mendoza, 1,100 kilometres from the capital, where they must face Argentine justice.

The French XV players were taken into custody after their arrest on Monday as part of the investigation opened for sexual violence. Under Argentine law, this can characterize acts ranging from sexual assault to aggravated rape, which could be punishable by twenty years in prison.

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The alleged attack took place on the night of Saturday to Sunday, at the Diplomatic Hotel in Mendoza, where French players and staff were staying, after the victory (28-13) of the French XV against the Pumas.

“Gender-based violence is extremely serious, the degradation is extreme”said M.e Natacha Romano, the plaintiff’s lawyer. “It would be a seriously atrocious sexual abuse, with sexual intercourse, with the participation of two people, with violence, for both”M told AFPe Romano, referring to an assault “with carnal access”the judicial definition of rape in Argentina.

“Inconsistencies” pointed out

According to the lawyer, her client returned to the hotel with one of the players involved, “identified as Hugo”. Still according to Mᵉ Romano, “He immediately grabs her, throws her on the bed, begins to undress her and starts to hit her savagely with a punch, the bruising of which is visible on the victim’s face. He suffocates her, to the point that she feels like she is going away.”. “She tries to escape at least five times. But Hugo wakes up and takes her back.”she assures again.

A version contested by the defense lawyer. “The young Frenchman invites him to go to the men’s toilets [de la boîte de nuit où ils se sont rencontrés]She said she was embarrassed. (…) but a few minutes later she goes to the hotel, waits for [le joueur] looking for the key [de la chambre] and goes upstairs. There is no greater consent than this proof”said Mr.e Cuneo Libarona, brother of the Argentine Minister of Justice, Mariano Cuneo Libarona. “She claims to have been beaten, the cameras [de surveillance de l’hôtel] say she wasn’t”he further explained to several media outlets, including AFP.

Oscar Jegou and Hugo Auradou have “confirmed having had sexual intercourse with the young woman during the night but (…) firmly denied any form of violence”according to a statement on Tuesday from the French Rugby Federation (FFR). The president of the FFR, Florian Grill, who met the two players in Buenos Aires on Tuesday, told AFP that he hoped that “justice moves quickly”pointing “inconsistencies”. “We went to see today [mercredi] in Mendoza, a right-hand man of the prosecutor and the person in charge of the case: the lawyer was able to present several points that question the initial statement and that will call into question several statements”he added.

“The long and detailed deposition”

According to Mendoza’s attorney general, Daniela Chaler, “the deposition [de la plaignante] was quite long, complete and detailed, and corresponded, for the time being, to the forensic conclusions”. “The injuries are consistent with the victim’s story but not necessarily exclusively the result of sexual assault.”added, on LV10 radio, the magistrate who requested the provisional detention of the two players.

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“If the investigation establishes the facts alleged, they constitute an unspeakable atrocity. My thoughts are with the victim.”wrote Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, the French Minister of Sports, on X, after the revelation of the affair which plunged the French XV into turmoil. “It was a very difficult day, very, very hard. A very difficult time to live through.”had, for his part, commented the coach of the Blues Fabien Galthié, on Tuesday.

Victorious over Uruguay (43-28), the French XV must once again challenge the Pumas on Saturday in Buenos Aires. “It was a difficult episode to deal with emotionally. Our job is to play and win this match, and that’s what we did.”said scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud, who was promoted to captain for the occasion, after the match.

Speaking about Saturday night, scrum coach William Servat explained that the group had “spent some time together [et] ate together ». “Afterwards, there was a form of freedom that was given to everyone (…) There was a moment of freedom. And of course, the rest, you know.”he added. The tour was also marked by the sending back to France of full-back Melvyn Jaminet, after racist remarks in a video published on Sunday.

The World with AFP

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