Swiss open rape investigation against Tariq Ramadan
Prosecutors in Geneva have opened a rape and sexual misconduct investigation against Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, who has been detained in France since February on separate rape charges, Swiss media reported on Sunday.
The arrest of the influential academic - a regular on TV debates with more than two million Facebook followers - has rocked the French Muslim community. The married father of four has rejected the accusations, saying he is the victim of a smear campaign.
The Tribune de Geneve newspaper cited justice ministry spokesman Henri Della Casa as saying that authorities had decided to open a formal criminal inquiry into allegations that Ramadan raped a woman in a Geneva hotel in 2008.
"I confirm the opening of an inquiry," the paper quoted Della Casa as saying, a key step that indicated the authorities believed the allegations merit further investigation. The accuser lodged her complaint in April.
"The prosecutors and Geneva police have worked quickly and worked well," Romain Jordan, the lawyer representing Ramadan's Swiss accuser, told AFP in an email.
He described the decision to open a criminal inquiry as "a major advance" that "demonstrates the seriousness of the allegations made by our client".
Ramadan, a Swiss citizen and Oxford University professor whose grandfather founded Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement, has not yet been interviewed by Swiss prosecutors.
Jordan said that following the opening of a criminal case, Swiss investigators will now travel to France to hear Ramadan's side.
The 56-year-old scholar, a prominent and controversial figure within Islam, has previously denied any sexual relations with the two women in France, saying he met with each of them only once and in public places.
Ramadan has written widely on the topic of European Muslims, often encouraging Muslims in the West to take pride in their identity as being European and Muslim and to adopt the culture of their respective countries without reservation, unless specific aspects clearly clash with the teachings of Islam.
He is an author whose books include Islam and the Arab Awakening (2011) and What is a Western/Muslim Individual Today (2015).