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ARGENTINA | 10-07-2024 22:53

Woman in Mendoza was raped, beaten by French rugby players, says lawyer

Alleged victim's lawyer says her client had suffered "fierce" violence at the hands of two French rugby players and claims to have been raped repeatedly.

An Argentine woman accusing two French international rugby players of rape was savagely beaten by her assailants, her lawyer said Wednesday, during an encounter that the men claim was consensual.

Hugo Auradou, 20, and Oscar Jegou, 21, are waiting to be transferred to the city of Mendoza, where the assault allegedly took place and where they will be questioned by prosecutors. They have not been charged with a crime.

The men were arrested in Buenos Aires on Monday, two days after a rugby test match against Argentina, when investigators determined the alleged victim's injuries were consistent with her account of rape.

The woman's lawyer, Natacha Romano, said on Wednesday her client had suffered "fierce" violence at the hands of her assailants, with injuries to her face, back, breasts, legs and ribs as well as various bite and scratch marks.

She said the woman had gone with one of the men from a nightclub to a hotel room, where she alleges she was held against her will and abused for several hours.

"The violence was fierce," said Romano. "There is more than one crime to investigate."

The woman claims to have been raped "at least six times" by one of the men and once by the other, according to the lawyer.

She allegedly tried to escape several times. 

Lawyer Rafael Cuneo Libarona, who represents the players, arrived in Mendoza on Wednesday and said "sexual relations" had been "consensual."

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.

"There are witnesses who saw her leave [the hotel], there are cameras that saw her leave, apparently no injuries are seen in the footage," Libarona – who is the brother of the country's Justice Minister Mariano Cuneo Libarona – told journalists.

 

'Blows to the head'

Romano told AFP that "the overwhelming proof that there was no consent is the victim's body" and the wounds it bears.

If the men are charged, the lawyer added, she would ask the court to remand them in pre-trial custody.

The charge, she added, should be "sexual assault with carnal access," the Argentine legal definition for rape, along with use of violence.

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

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) said the players have denied any coercion or violence, and stressed the importance of giving them an opportunity to make their case.

"If the facts are true, they are incredibly serious," the French federation's president, Florian Grill, told reporters after arriving in Argentina.

Grill later told AFP the players have "a quite different version" of events to that of the woman, with "a lot of inconsistencies."

"We are not judges, we are not investigators, but we think that the Argentine justice system should look at the case very quickly," he said.

 

'Trauma'

After the initial questioning in Mendoza, possibly this week, prosecutor Cecilia Bignert will have 24 hours to decide whether to charge the players. The deadline can be extended once by another 24 hours.

If charged, a hearing will be held 10 days later to determine whether they will have to await trial in custody.

France head coach Fabien Galthie said news of the accusation had been "a trauma" for the squad, which on Wednesday beat Uruguay 43-28 in their second of three games on the South America tour.

"It was a difficult moment to manage emotionally," captain Baptiste Couilloud told reporters after the win.

"We thought only of what was happening on the field today, and it's the only thing that keeps us going with this tour."

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

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 & Nicholas McAnally, AFP

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