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Tariq Ramadan acquitted of charges in Swiss rape trial

Islamic scholar still has to face four cases in France and a court appeal in Geneva, with three years imprisonment if found guilty
Swiss leading Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan leaves Geneva's courthouse, 24 May 2023 (AFP)
Swiss leading Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan leaves Geneva's courthouse, 24 May 2023 (AFP)

Prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan was acquitted on Wednesday of charges of rape and sexual coercion by the Geneva Criminal Court, which found no evidence against the former Oxford professor.

The court awarded Ramadan around 151,000 Swiss francs ($167,000) in compensation from the Swiss canton of Geneva over the case.

The 60-year-old Swiss scholar, one of his generation's most famous Muslim academics, smiled after the ruling was read and was hugged by one of his daughters. 

Ramadan's accuser, identified under the assumed name of "Brigitte", left the courtroom before the end of the verdict, while her lawyers vowed to appeal the verdict in the case.

The scholar admitted that he had met Brigitte, but denied her accusation that he had repeatedly raped her at a Geneva hotel in October 2008.

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Ramadan, who took a leave of absence from his position at the University of Oxford in 2017 and then left the institution by mutual consent in 2021, had been facing five charges of rape, four in France and one in Switzerland.

The latter was the first to go to court in May, and Ramadan would have faced up to three years in prison if he had been found guilty.

He still has to face four charges of rape in France and a court appeal in Geneva.

Ramadan has denied all charges against him in France and Switzerland, saying they are politically motivated attacks aimed at tarnishing his reputation. 

He took his 2017 leave of absence from Oxford after the first complaint was filed against him. Ramadan was professor of contemporary Islamic Studies and had taught at St Antony's College since 2007.


The Swiss trial presented on Wednesday two diametrically opposed versions of what happened at the Geneva hotel room in October 2008, AFP reported.

The lawyer representing Brigitte, a convert to Islam, said she was repeatedly raped and subjected to "torture and barbarism".

Is Tariq Ramadan going to get a fair trial in France?
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Ramadan rejected the charges, saying that there was no sexual activity between him and Brigitte and that he was the victim of a "trap". 

Brigitte was in her 40s at the time of the alleged assault in 2008. She filed a complaint 10 years later, telling the court she felt emboldened to come forward following similar complaints filed in France.

Both parties agreed that Ramadan and Brigitte spent the night together in the hotel room, which she left early the following morning.

Ramadan insisted that Brigitte invited herself up to his room, then let herself be kissed, before quickly ending the encounter.

The indictment accused Ramadan of sexual coercion and of committing rape three times during the night.

During the trial, the defence insisted on Ramadan's innocence and stressed there was no scientific evidence in the case.

His lawyers also accused Brigitte and the women who have brought charges against him in France of forging links to bring down the Islamic scholar, citing "Ramadanphobia".

Academic career

A celebrated Islamic scholar, Ramadan was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2004.

His grandfather Hassan al-Banna was the founder of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement, and was the subject of Ramadan's thesis during his studies at the University of Geneva.

He 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.

Ramadan is an author whose books include Islam and the Arab Awakening (2011) and Oxford University Press's Introduction to Islam (2017).

He openly condemned terrorism on European soil and called for democracy and the respect of human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, where he was denied entry to countries including Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Syria.

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