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18 July 2024

India questions France support for alleged rapist


An Indian mother whose daughter was allegedly raped by her French father has asked France's Foreign Ministry to explain why their diplomats are providing support for him but not the little girl.

In a case threatening to overshadow President Francois Hollande's scheduled visit to India next week, lawyers acting for Suja Jones Mazurier have asked the ministry to investigate the conduct of senior officials at the the French Consulate in Bangalore.

The father, Pascal Mazurier, who worked at the consulate, was charged in June 2012 with the rape of his three-year-old daughter.

He was released on bail in October but continues to face the rape charge and has been forced to surrender his passport.

Two days after he was imprisoned, Mazurier transferred 250,000 rupees ($4715) to an account in the name of Vincent Caumontat, the deputy consul in the southern city regarded as the hub of India's burgeoning IT industry, according to bank records submitted to the French Foreign Ministry.

Lawyers for the mother have asked Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to investigate why the money was apparently transfered to a consulate official and what it was used for.

The lawyers have also asked Fabius to explain why the father has received what they described as excessively active consular support while the interests of the daughter, now 4, and her brothers, 2 and 7, who are all French citizens, have allegedly been ignored.

Their complaint suggests that Dominique Causse, the Consul at the time of Mazurier's arrest, attempted to pervert the course of justice by suggesting to the Indian police that Mazurier was subject to diplomatic immunity, "whilst knowing perfectly well he was not at a level to be accorded a diplomatic passport."

Confusion over that issue led to Mazurier, who was arrested on June 14, not being formally charged until June 19, a day after France's ambassador in New Delhi clarified his status.

Lawyers for Suja Jones urged Fabius to appoint an official from the Delhi embassy to ensure that the interests of the children were being defended as actively as those of Mazurier.

There was no immediate reaction from the Foreign Ministry to the complaint filed by Suja Jones's lawyers on Tuesday afternoon.

Officials at Hollande's official residence, the Elysee Palace, were equally tight-lipped about an audience granted to Pascal Mazurier's lawyers on Monday.

The lawyers confirmed the meeting to AFP on Tuesday but Hollande aides refused point-blank to confirm or deny that it had taken place, in what was seen as a sign of the how sensitive the issue is.

Inappropriate collaboration with accused's lawyers

As well as the issue of rape being extremely prominent in India's recent news agenda, Franco-Indian relations are delicately balanced with Paris trying to tie the New Delhi government down on an $18 billion (13 million euro) sale of Rafale fighter jets.

Suja Jones, told AFP the audience at the Elysee Palace was symptomatic of her husband's ability to portray the case against him as being the result of family breakdown and depict himself as a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

"I find it really quite shocking that officials working for the president of France should be prepared to have a meeting with the lawyers of someone who has been charged with such a serious crime," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Bangalore.

"Can you imagine if we were in France? Would there not be an outcry if lawyers working for someone accused of raping a three-year-old girl went to the president and asked him to intervene in a criminal case."

Mazurier's lawyers said they would be bringing defamation charges against his wife in France, on the basis of her alleged fabrication of evidence in the case.

"There is now one thing that is certain: the fabrication and manipulation of evidence by Suja Jones," the lawyers, Pierre-Olivier Sur and Clemence Witt, told AFP.

Doctors at two Bangalore hospitals have testified that the Mazuriers' daughter was raped.

A report submitted to police by the Baptist Hospital in Bangalore on June 13, 2012, states that she had abrasions and lacerations.

The report, which has been seen by AFP, was signed by a consultant gynecologist and six other doctors. It also notes the presence of sperm.

Pascal Mazurier's lawyers say DNA tests have proved that the sperm was not the father's. Suja Jones and her legal team believe the DNA evidence was tampered with.

They argue that the case against her husband is also supported by evidence provided by child abuse experts who interviewed the girl and have concluded that she had been abused over an extended period.

Suja Jones told AFP her husband was not being granted access to their children because of concern for their physical safety and psychological welfare.

She accuses him of having left her with no means to support herself or her children by transferring money out of both their Indian account (to the deputy consul) and their French account.

Her lawyers say the consulate's involvement in Mazurier's legal hearings "in close collaboration with his lawyers" has been inappropriate and tantamount to an attempt to intimidate officials in the Indian judicial system.