Former French Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn has been indicted for her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic after investigators at a special court in Paris concluded there were grounds to prosecute her.
Buzyn has been charged with “endangering the lives of others,” according to a prosecutor for a special court dealing with ministerial responsibility. A second possible offense of “not stopping a disaster” was not retained.
The ex-doctor, who will be able to appeal this indictment, attended a court hearing on Friday, having welcomed “an excellent opportunity for me to explain myself and establish the truth”.
She said she would “not allow the government’s action, or my action as Minister, to be discredited when we have done so much to prepare our country for a continuing global health crisis.”
The charges are a blow to President Emmanuel Macron, whose handling of the health crisis will come under scrutiny during next year’s election campaign, but the tribunal is also likely to face allegations of judicial overrun.
Buzyn, who resigned his post in February last year, weeks after the first cases of Covid were confirmed in France, has been criticized and ridiculed for his initial statements about the pandemic.
She said in January 2020 that there was “virtually no risk” of importing Covid-19 from the Chinese city that caused the epidemic, Wuhan, then said that “the risk of the spread of coronavirus among the population is very low ”. .
A month later, as she left the ministry to launch a failed bid to become mayor of Paris, she asserted that “the tsunami has not yet arrived,” in apparent contradiction to her earlier statements.
Buzyn, a cancer and transplant specialist, later said during a parliamentary inquiry that she alerted then President and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to the potential “dangers” of Covid-19 as early as January.
The special tribunal, known as the Republic’s Court of Justice, was established in 1993 to prosecute ministers to improve accountability over the perception that cabinet members may have escaped legal censorship for their actions in office.
Some critics accuse him of being too slow and lenient, while supporters of Buzyn see the investigation as unfair and likely to deter others from entering politics.
Philippe and the current Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, are also under investigation.
Buzyn left politics and in January joined the cabinet of World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has also come under fire for his response to the pandemic.