French minister investigated after rape allegations
Zacharopoulou, accused of rape, is known as a defender of women's rights Ludovic MARIN AFP/File

French prosecutors said on Wednesday they were investigating a junior minister in President Emmanuel Macron's government after two allegations of rape were brought against her.

The rape allegations go back to when Chrysoula Zacharopoulou -- who is now state secretary for development, Francophonie and international partnerships -- still worked as a gynaecologist, according to French magazine Marianne.

One complaint was lodged May 25 and the investigation opened two days later, the prosecutors said. The second complaint was filed on June 16. Both allege that the assaults happened in the context of medical care.

Greece-born Zacharopoulou, 46, joined the government of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in May, having been a member of the European Parliament for the previous three years. She reports to Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

She gained prominence in the mid-2010s by campaigning for greater public awareness of endometriosis together with actress Julie Gayet, who this year married France's former president Francois Hollande.

She also wrote a report on the illness for the French government.

Zacharopoulou was strongly involved in the UN's COVAX coronavirus vaccine rollout effort, and has spoken out in favor of women's reproductive rights.

She was a member of the European Parliament's women's rights commission during her time there.

Zacharopoulou studied medicine in Italy before moving to France to practice first in the Begin military hospital near Paris, and then in the Paris hospital service AP-HP.

Contacted by AFP Wednesday, AP-HP said it had no knowledge of any complaints against her.

The French foreign ministry did not respond to AFP's requests for comment.

The accusations against Zacharopoulou are not the first rape allegations to shadow Macron's government and come at a time of political difficulty for the president after he failed to retain an overall majority in parliamentary elections.

Prosecutors investigated Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin over an allegation for rape filed in 2017. He denied any wrongdoing and prosecutors in January asked for the case to be dropped.

Solidarities minister Damien Abad was also the target of rape allegations in a controversy that erupted last month, but French prosecutors have said they are not currently opening an investigation.

© 2022 AFP