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French senator accused of spiking MP’s drink charged

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A French senator was charged Friday on suspicion of drugging a lower-house MP with a view to assaulting her, his lawyer said, in a case that has rocked France’s parliament.

Joel Guerriau was arrested on Thursday after the alleged assault attempt against Sandrine Josso, a source familiar with the case told AFP.

Josso felt ill after accepting a drink on Tuesday night at the Paris home of the 66-year-old senator, with whom she was not in an intimate relationship, prosecutors said.

A Paris investigator charged Guerriau with “administering without Sandrine Josso’s knowledge a substance likely to alter her judgement or self-control, to commit a rape or sexual assault”, his lawyer Remi-Pierre Drai said.

He was also indicted for “possession and use of substances classed as drugs” and placed under judicial supervision, the lawyer added.

The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed the charges and told AFP the senator was banned from visiting the home of the alleged victim and from contacting her or witnesses.

Tests revealed that Josso had ecstasy in her system, investigators said, prompting her to file the criminal complaint.

Guerriau was arrested and held in custody under caught-in-the-act rules allowing police to override parliamentary immunity, prosecutors said.

Broadcaster RMC, which first reported the story, said police had searched his office and home, where prosecutors confirmed they found ecstasy.

– ‘Feeling of betrayal’ –

The senator and his alleged victim faced each other on Friday during two hours of joint questioning by investigators, a common practice in France known as a confrontation.

Josso, an MP for the centrist MoDem party, was “in a state of shock,” her lawyer Julia Minkowski told AFP.

She said Josso felt unwell after drinking a glass of champagne and had seen the senator “grabbing a small plastic bag containing something white, in a drawer in his kitchen”.

“She had to deploy monumental physical and intellectual forces to overcome her terror and extricate herself at the last minute from this ambush,” Minkowski said.

“Added to this is a feeling of betrayal and total incomprehension — Joel Guerriau had been a friend for around 10 years in whom she had complete confidence.”

Guerriau “will fight to prove he never intended to administer a substance on his colleague and longstanding friend to abuse her”, Drai said.

“Guerriau is not a predator… He is an honest man, respected and respectable, who will restore his and his family’s honour.”

Originally a banker, Guerriau has been a member of the Senate, the French parliament’s upper house, since 2011 and is deputy head of its foreign and military affairs committee.

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