'Sex assault' politician blames far-right plot

A French mayor and former government minister spent his second night in custody last night answering questions about his alleged use of elaborate foot massages to sexually assault female employees.

Georges Tron, 53, who was forced to resign as a junior civil service minister last month, claims that his accusers have exploited the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair in New York to invent evidence against him. He also claims that he is a victim of a plot by the far-right National Front.

Two former employees of Mr Tron at the town hall in Draveil, south of Paris, say that he forced them to take part in sessions of "reflexology", or foot massage, which led to sexual assault and even rape. Two town hall officials, a woman and a man, have also been arrested after being accused of helping Mr Tron to assault the two women. Mr Tron's lawyer, Olivier Shnerb, said the centre-right politician had dismissed all the allegations against him. "It's not simply a question of denial," he said. "When you are innocent, you don't just deny, you reject."

The lawyer also protested against the conditions under which Mr Tron was arrested on Monday night and held in custody while his parliamentary immunity was suspended during a month-long recess in the National Assembly.

"Nothing happened (at the police station) on Monday evening. Nothing happened this morning (Tuesday). The interrogation took place between 11.30pm and 4am, which makes it difficult, physically and intellectually, to defend yourself," Mr Shnerb said.

Since the two former town hall employees, Laura and Eloise, aged 34 and 36, made their accusations last month, several other women have come forward to say that Mr Tron forced them to undergo lengthy foot massages. No other woman has made allegations of sexual assault.

Mr Tron's lawyer said last week that his client's interest in "reflexology" was well-known. "It's bizarre and unusual," he said. "But if you knew how many odd hobbies were practised in our town halls, you would be astonished."