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Sexual assault charges raised against Costa Rica ex-president

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

San José, Costa Rica   /   Wed, February 6, 2019   /   08:08 am
Sexual assault charges raised against Costa Rica ex-president Former Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias gestures to Venezuelan residents in Costa Rica gathered outside his house in San Jose, Costa Rica, January 23, 2019, to thank him for his position against the government of Nicolas Maduro. The United States and major South American nations recognised Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim leader on January 23 while the EU called for free elections to restore democracy, leaving President Nicolas Maduro increasingly isolated. (AFP/Ezequiel Becerra)

Former Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace laureate Oscar Arias on Tuesday denied charges of sexual assault made by a peace campaigner who filed a criminal complaint against him. 

The two-time former president, who won his Nobel prize in 1987 for efforts to broker an end to Central America's civil wars, said in a statement released by his lawyer that he had "never acted in a way that disrespected the will of any woman."

“I deny categorically the accusations made against me,” he said.

The 78-year-old statesman's denial came after Alexandra Arce von Herold, a psychiatrist and peace campaigner, filed a formal complaint to police, asking them to press charges against the former president.

She said in a 10-page complaint, delivered to the Costa Rican newspaper Universidad and to The New York Times, that in December 2014 she had visited Arias at his San Jose home to enlist his support in a campaign against nuclear weapons.

She said that at the end of the meeting, Arias came up behind her and grabbed her breasts and put his hands up her skirt. She said she was so traumatized that she gave up her lobbying for the NGO she had been trying to get him to support.

Arias, who served as president between 1986 and 1990 and from 2006 to 2010, said he would defend himself in court and noted that he had always worked for "sexual equality in my public life." 

The sexual assault complaint came as the former head of state also faces charges of corruption over a 2008 deal to exploit a gold mine, a deal that was later overturned by the courts.

Arias is currently the head of a foundation to promote peace and disarmament that bears his name. 

Arce told the New York Times she had been inspired by the #Metoo movement to come forward with charges against one of the most respected and powerful figures in the Central American country.