Lebanon recalls ambassador from France following rape allegations

Rami Adwan denies claims of ‘psychological and physical violence’ and attempting to hit an embassy employee with his car

Illustrative: A crowd of people gathers at the courtyard of the Sursock Museum during an opening event for the iconic venue in Beirut, Lebanon on May 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Illustrative: A crowd of people gathers at the courtyard of the Sursock Museum during an opening event for the iconic venue in Beirut, Lebanon on May 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon’s foreign ministry said Thursday it was recalling its ambassador to France, Rami Adwan, after an investigation was opened into allegations of rape and intentional violence by the envoy.

Adwan is being investigated in France following complaints by two former embassy employees.

Recalling the diplomat to Lebanon, however, could put him beyond the grasp of the French authorities, as Lebanon does not extradite its nationals.

“Following the circumstances surrounding the case of the Lebanese ambassador to France… it has been decided to recall ambassador Rami Adwan,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The envoy has rejected the allegations.

Lebanon this week sent an investigation team to the embassy in Paris to question the ambassador and hear statements from embassy staff.

Thursday’s foreign ministry statement said the decision to recall Adwan also came “in light of” the dispatch of that team to France.

It said a charge d’affaires was appointed on Wednesday.

A first former embassy employee, aged 31, had filed a complaint in June 2022 for a rape she said was committed in May 2020 in the ambassador’s private apartment, sources close to the investigation told AFP earlier, confirming a report by the Mediapart news site.

According to the complaint, she had a relationship with the ambassador, who carried out “psychological and physical violence with daily humiliations.”

The second woman, aged 28, made a complaint last February after what she said was a series of physical attacks after she turned down sexual relations.

She claims Adwan tried to hit her with his car after an argument on the sidelines of last year’s Normandy World Peace Forum.

She also accused the ambassador of trying to suffocate her at her home last December by pressing her face to her bed.

Adwan’s lawyer Karim Beylouni has said his client “contests all accusations of aggression in any shape or form: verbal, moral, sexual.”

He said Adwan had had “romantic relationships” with the two women between 2018 and 2022 that were “punctuated by arguments and breakups.”

A French diplomatic source told AFP on Monday that French authorities would ask Lebanon to lift the ambassador’s immunity.

France’s foreign ministry had earlier told AFP that “in view of the seriousness of the facts mentioned, we consider it necessary for the Lebanese authorities to lift the immunity of the Lebanese ambassador in Paris in order to facilitate the work of the French judicial authorities.”

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