French prosecutors are investigating the alleged rape of a female soldier by a fellow serviceman at the presidential palace in Paris, a source said Friday.
The alleged assault took place after a going-away reception for a general and two others that President Macron attended in July, according to French daily Liberation, which first reported the accusations.
The accused soldier was named an assistant witness after questioning by prosecutors on July 12, indicating he remains subject to further interrogations but has not been formally charged, a judicial source confirmed to AFP.
Macron’s office has made avoiding presidential scandals a priority since embarrassing revelations that one of his bodyguards assaulted young demonstrators while posing as a police officer during a May Day protest in 2018.
Last week the bodyguard, Alexandre Benalla, was handed a three-year sentence over the incident, though he can avoid a cell by wearing an electronic bracelet for a year.
“Since the Benalla affair Patrick Strzoda, Emmanuel Macron’s chief of staff, wants to respond resolutely and quickly as soon as there is any inappropriate behaviour by anyone working at the Elysee,” the presidential source said.
Liberation reported the two soldiers were colleagues deployed at the high-security general staff office at the Elysee Palace in charge of sensitive government matters, most of them classified or top secret.
It said the woman filed the rape complaint at a nearby police station a few hours after the reception.
Asked for comment, a presidential official told AFP that “as soon as the authorities were aware of these claims, measures were immediately taken” to support the alleged victim and “the person accused was immediately transferred far from the Elysee.”
The defence ministry declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
Police detained the accused soldier, a non-commissioned officer, for questioning before his release, and Defence Minister Florence Parly has ordered a parallel inquiry that could see him brought before a disciplinary committee, Liberation said.
Around 325 military personnel are assigned to the Elysee, according to the paper, either for the general staff office or security.
The two soldiers were part of a group that continued drinking after Macron left the reception around 10:00 pm, despite an obligation of self-restraint for civil servants working at the Elysee, the paper said.
Prosecutors and Macron’s office kept the allegations under wraps even as France grapples more openly with sexual assault and violence against women, and more victims speak out in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Macron, who will likely stand for re-election in next April’s vote, has made tackling violence against women a key theme of his presidency.
An Odoxa poll released Thursday indicates he remains the front-runner with 25 percent of intended votes in the first round of voting, trailed by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at 18 percent. Possible candidate Eric Zemmour, a right-wing media pundit, took 14 percent.