From the outset, Mr. Hmaïd’s charges were intended to fall within the statute of limitations, which was 20 years at the time of the alleged offense, and therefore never risked a conviction. But French prosecutors regularly open investigations into sexual abuse cases to identify other potential victims, even though the statute of limitations may have expired.
The allegations against Mr Girard were the first in a series of sexual abuse scandals that have rocked Paris city hall in recent months. They are part of a broader reflection on sex, gender and power in France which has shaken the cultural and political fields.
Mr. Girard, a power broker in politics and culture for a generation, had already been the subject of intense criticism over the summer over his links with Gabriel Matzneff, a French writer who openly promoted pedophilia for years. decades while benefiting from the protection of the French elites. . Under the pressure of his relations with Mr. Matzneff, Mr. Girard resigned from his post of deputy mayor but has continued until now to sit on the Paris city council.
Mr Hmaïd told the New York Times that he first met Mr Girard in Tunisia in the summer of 1989, when he was 15 years old. He said they met in Hammamet, a Tunisian seaside resort, where Mr. Girard had hired him as a servant in a villa he had rented. But it was a year later, during a trip together to the United States in 1990, that Mr. Girard began to sexually abuse him in Washington, Mr. Hmaïd said.
Mr. Girard denied ever having sex with Mr. Hmaïd in an interview with the New York Times. But he said he spent time with the young man and considered him a member of the family.