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Parisian street artist accused of rape, sex assault

 

Agence France-Presse

Paris  /  Thu, July 9, 2020  /  09:00 pm
Parisian street artist accused of rape, sex assault

French street artist Wilfrid Azencoth in Paris on February 8, 2015. (AFP/Joel Saget)

French authorities have opened an investigation into Parisian street artist Wilfrid A, known for his uplifting graffiti, after almost 30 women filed complaints accusing him of rape and sexual assault, prosecutors told AFP on Wednesday.

Twenty-five women aged between 19 and 49 lodged a collective complaint on Tuesday, seen by AFP, in which they described Wilfrid A as a "sexual predator" who played on his fame as part of a well-oiled routine to assault his victims over the course of a decade.

The collective complaint was filed after three other women filed individual complaints.

Neon, a news and trends magazine aimed at young people, had published on June 22 the accounts of sixteen women, some of whom were underage at the time, describing rape and sexual assault.

Read also: Egyptian women flood Instagram with #MeToo stories as suspect arrested

The street artist became a local star after the Paris terror attacks in November 2015 when his most famous tag "Love is everywhere" became a symbol of Parisian resilience and hope. 

But feminists have taken to crossing out the word "love" on the murals and replacing it with "rapist". 

Wilfrid A would walk up to mostly very young women in the street, often in the famous Montmartre artist quarter where he lives, the women alleged in the complaint.

He would compliment them and suggest they model for his photographs or become the face of his brand. 

Once they arrived at his home, the street artist would offer them alcohol or drugs. He would then become aggressive or violent, they said. Some of the victims also accuse him of drugging them. 

"Wilfrid A appears to have been on a tireless even frenetic hunt for very young women for at least a decade," Neon alleged in its article.

Investigators opened an inquiry on June 26, shortly after the publication of the magazine's initial article.

"An inquiry doesn't begin in a magazine but in a police station," Wilfrid A's lawyer Joseph Cohen-Sabban told AFP. 

"My client is willing to explain himself to investigators," Cohen-Sabban said, adding that the street artist has been threatened since the publication of the article.

The investigation comes as a controversy surrounds the appointment this week of Gerald Darmanin as interior minister, owing to an investigation into a claim he raped a woman in 2009.

The minister vehemently denies the accusations.

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