Wednesday, July 17, 2024

SPORTS | 10-07-2024 10:29

What next for French rugby players held in Argentine rape probe?

Two members of France's international rugby team touring South America were arrested in Argentina on July 9, 2024 following an allegation of sexual assault.

The fate of French national rugby players Hugo Aradou and Oscar Jegou, accused of sexually assaulting a woman while on tour in Mendoza, is now in the hands of Argentina's justice system.

The duo, who say there was consensual sex with their accuser, were detained in Buenos Aires, from where they were supposed to have left for a match in Uruguay, on Monday.

This is the legal road ahead:



The players are to be transferred to Mendoza, where the alleged crime took place, between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning for questioning, according to their lawyer Rafael Cuneo Libarona, the brother of Argentina's justice minister.

They will also be subjected to forensic examination.

Cuneo Libarona himself will travel to Mendoza on Wednesday.

"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 on Tuesday.



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, the players can be held in detention until a pre-trial hearing 10 days later to determine whether or not they will await trial in custody or as free men.

Within the 10 days, they can bring a request for parole or house arrest, a spokesman for the Mendoza prosecutor's office, Martín Ahumada, told AFP.

Grounds for requesting pre-trial detention include a danger of an accused obstructing the investigation if freed, or a risk that they will flee justice.

In the French players' case, "it can be assumed that they have the means" to leave Argentina, said Ahumada.



The victim reportedly met Auradou at a nightclub in Mendoza a few hours after France's match with Argentina.

After having a few drinks with the player, she says she began to feel dizzy.  Auradou allegedly then took her to the Diplomatic Hotel, where he was staying and his team-mate Jegou was waiting.

The alleged sexual assault has been classified as "aggravated sexual assault," a crime often referred to aggravated rape in other jurisdictions. 

The victim eventually managed to leave the hotel and she soon filed a complaint, identifying the two rugby players as the perpetrators.

Mendoza prosecutor Daniela Chaler told a local radio station on Tuesday that there were "convincing elements" in the woman's testimony and that her injuries were consistent with her version of events.

Lawyer Rafael Cuneo Libarona said the players admitted to having sexual relations with the complainant but that it was "consensual."

"At no time was there any sign of violence or anything like that," said the lawyer.

"We will present evidence, concrete evidence, and Mendoza's Judiciary will decide whether or not to release the players," said Cuneo Libarona.



The sentence for sexual assault in Argentina ranges from six to 15 years, according to the penal code. 

If there were two aggressors, this could be an aggravating circumstance, said Ahumada.

In that case, the sentence can be up to 20 years.



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