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ARGENTINA | 10-07-2024 13:46

Argentine woman raped and beaten by French rugby players, alleges lawyer

The lawyer of a woman who has accused two French international rugby players of rape said her client was savagely beaten and locked in a hotel room during the incident.

The lawyer of an Argentine woman who has accused two French international rugby players of rape said her client was savagely beaten and locked in a hotel room during an incident that the men claim was consensual.

The two players with the national squad, Hugo Auradou, 20, and Oscar Jegou, 21, were awaiting transfer Wednesday to the city of Mendoza where the sexual violence allegedly took place.

The men were arrested in Buenos Aires on Monday, two days after a test match against Argentina, after the alleged victim was found with injuries consistent with her account of rape.

Lawyer Rafael Cuneo Libarona, who represents the players, told AFP the teammates had admitted to having had sexual relations with the plaintiff but it had been "consensual sex, and at no time were there signs of violence or anything of that sort."

The alleged victim's lawyer, Natacha Romano, told a local Mendoza media outlet that her client had been "savagely beaten" during the attack, with visible injuries to her face, head, ribs and legs.

However, she told Radio Mitre that "the most serious of these crimes is the sexual assault with carnal access," the Argentine legal definition for rape.

According to local media reports, the alleged attack took place Saturday night at the Diplomatic Hotel in Mendoza, where France's players and staff were staying for a Test match as part of a South American tour.

Police sources, who asked not to be named, told AFP that according to testimony, the players met the woman at a bar after Saturday's match, and went with her to the hotel.

She alleges she felt dizzy after a few drinks and was taken by Auradou and Jegou to the hotel where she was raped.

"The main visible blow is a punch to one of her eyes, several blows to the head... to the ribs which are being checked for fractures," Romano told the Mendoza Post.

 

'Convincing elements'

She said the woman had been locked for four hours inside the hotel room where the alleged rape took place.

"Aside from the sexual assault, we are talking about a woman who was savagely beaten," Romano told El Sol newspaper.

Mendoza prosecutor Daniela Chaler told LV10 radio Tuesday there were "convincing elements" in the statement the woman made and that her injuries are compatible with her version of events, although they were not "necessarily exclusive" to sexual assault.

French rugby and sports officials have expressed shock at the allegations while stressing the importance of the players having the opportunity to tell their side of the story.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR), too, said the players have denied any coercion or violence.

"If the facts are true, they are incredibly serious," the federation's president Florian Grill told reporters in Argentina, while stressing the investigation must be left to take its course.

Once the players arrive in Mendoza, they will undergo questioning and forensic examination, said their lawyer Libarona – who is the brother of the country's Justice Minister Mariano Cuneo Libarona.

"We will present evidence on behalf of the players, concrete evidence, and the justice of Mendoza will decide whether or not to free the players," the lawyer told AFP.

After the initial questioning, prosecutor Cecilia Bignert will have 24 hours to decide whether or not to charge the players. The deadline can be extended once, by another 24 hours.

If charged, a pre-trial hearing will be held 10 days later to determine whether or not they will await trial in custody or as free men.

 

'Trauma'

France head coach Fabien Galthie said news of the accusation had been "a trauma" for the squad and delegation.

"It's a very difficult time," he told reporters Tuesday in Montevideo on the eve of a friendly match against Uruguay on the French team's South American tour.

Part of an FFR delegation remained behind in Argentina with the two accused players. 

France's Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera wrote on X on Tuesday: "If the investigation establishes the alleged facts, they constitute an unspeakable atrocity. Our thoughts are with the victim." 

Auradou and Jegou were in the France side that won last year's Under-20 World Cup in South Africa. 

The sentence for sexual assault in Argentina ranges from six to 15 years, according to the penal code. However this could go up to 20 years in the case of two aggressors.

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by Tomás Viola, AFP

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