By Al Qalam Reporter and France 24
“I am innocent of all charges against me and will keep on fighting for my dignity and honor,” that is what leading Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan told his supporters this week, shortly after being released on bail by a Paris court on charges that he raped two women.
Ramadan – the 56-year-old Swiss academic – said in his post that “It’s true that I made a mistake” but emphatically denied raping the two women who made the accusations. He thanked his supporters from around the world that stood by him.
Ramadan who had been in custody since February 2, made an impassioned argument for release.
His bail was set at 300,000 Euros (about R4.7 million) and requires him to hand over his passport and report to police once a week.
“Where would I flee to?” he asked in his hearing, his first public appearance since his incarceration.
Ramadan denies charges he raped the women in 2009 and 2012. One accuser is a disabled woman identified in media reports as “Christelle” and the other is a feminist activist, Henda Ayari.
But last month, Ramadan was forced to drop assertions he had no sexual contact at all with the women after an expert recovered 399 text messages between him and “Christelle”, some of which detailed violent sexual fantasies. Ramadan subsequently said the sexual contact was “consensual”.
In court, Ramadan said he had no intention of becoming a fugitive from justice, and said his multiple sclerosis meant he had difficulty walking after 10 months locked up.
“I will remain in France and defend my honour and my innocence,” the well-known TV commentator told the judges in what was his fourth bid to secure his freedom.
“I would like you to make your decision from your conscience, not because my name is Tariq Ramadan and I’m demonised in this country,” he said.
He portrayed his accusers as liers, bending media attention in the case to their benefit, asking: “Who has instrumentalised the ‘Me Too’ movement?’
“I have never raped, I am not a rapist. It’s true that I made a mistake,” he said.
But Ayari’s lawyer Francis Szpiner said the two “women were regularly threatened.”
Ramadan, a married father of four whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, was a professor at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when the rape allegations surfaced at the height of the “Me Too” movement late last year.
Meanwhile, addressing his supporters on Change.org – a ‘Free Tariq Ramadan’ page set up by his supporters – the scholar wrote: “Peace be upon you. After nine and a half months of imprisonment, I was released on Friday, November 16, 2018.
“I am innocent of all charges against me and will keep on fighting for my dignity and honor.
“The elements of the case, as well as the manner in which the investigation was conducted confirm that I was kept in prison for political reasons.
“I would like to thank my family for their unwavering support and my lawyer, Emmanuel Marsigny, for his handling of the case.
“My deep gratitude also goes to all those around the world who have shown their support with great generosity, patience and courage, despite the media lynching, the insults and threats.
“Thanks to all of you, from the bottom of my heart. Your presence has given me strength.
“My illness requires medical care that was incompatible with incarceration. My health condition deteriorated so much during detention that I am now under intense medical treatment. It will take time, Insha’Allah.
“As I did a year ago prior to my detention, I reiterate my request to avoid insults and threats against the plaintiffs and those who support them.
“The law and justice will prevail against slander and lies, without having to lose our calm and serenity.
“I thank Allah for giving me the patience and the strength to cope with this ordeal and for granting me the courage to continue this fight to clear my name and for the manifestation of the truth.
“I also have a particular thought for all those incarcerated who are innocent and ill, who are victims of injustice, not receiving proper care and are forgotten in prison.” – Tariq Ramadan.