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2 French Rugby Players Arrested on Sexual Assault Charges

Mendoza, Argentina:

An Argentinian woman who has accused two French rugby players of rape was brutally beaten during an incident that her attackers claim was consensual, her lawyer said.

Hugo Auradou, 20, and Oscar Jegou, 21, are awaiting transfer to the city of Mendoza, where the attack took place, where they will be questioned by prosecutors. They have not been charged with any crime.

The men were arrested in Buenos Aires on Monday, two days after a Test match against Argentina. Investigators found the alleged victim’s injuries were consistent with her statement that she had been raped.

The woman’s lawyer, Natacha Romano, told AFP on Wednesday that her client had been subjected to “severe” violence by her attackers, with wounds to her face, back, breasts, legs and ribs, as well as various bite and scratch marks.

The woman allegedly went from a nightclub to a hotel room with one of the men, where she was held against her will and abused for hours.

“The violence was very severe,” Romano said. “There is more than one crime to investigate.”

The lawyer said the woman alleged she was raped “at least six times” by one of the men and once by the other.

It is alleged that he tried to escape several times.

The lawyer representing the players, Rafael Cuneo Libarona, arrived in Mendoza on Wednesday and said the “sexual relations” were “consensual.”

The attack allegedly took place on Saturday night at the Diplomatic Hotel, where French footballers and technical staff were staying while participating in a Test match in Mendoza, France, as part of their South American tour.

“There are eyewitnesses who saw him leave (the hotel), there are cameras that saw him leave, apparently the images do not show any injuries,” Libarona, who is the brother of the country’s justice minister Mariano Cuneo Libarona, told reporters.

‘Blows to the head’

“The strongest evidence of non-consent is the victim’s body and the injuries on it,” Romano told AFP.

The lawyer added that if the men are charged, he would ask the court to continue their detention.

He added that the charge must be “sexual assault by intercourse” – the legal definition of rape in Argentina – and that violence must be used.

Mendoza prosecutor Daniela Chaler told LV10 radio on Tuesday that there were “convincing elements” in the woman’s account and that her injuries were consistent with her version of events, but that they were not “necessarily specific to sexual assault.”

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) denied that the players were subjected to any force or violence and stressed the importance of giving them the opportunity to make their case.

“If the facts are true, it is incredibly serious,” federation President Florian Grill told reporters in Argentina.

Grill later told AFP that the players had a “quite different” version of events to the woman’s and that there were “many inconsistencies”.

“We are not judges, we are not investigators, but we think that the Argentine justice system should look at the case very quickly,” he said.

Trauma’

After the first questioning in Mendoza, probably this week, prosecutor Cecilia Bignert will have 24 hours to decide whether to charge the players. The deadline could be extended by another 24 hours.

If they are charged, a hearing will be held 10 days later to determine whether they will be held in custody to await trial.

France coach Fabien Galthie said news of the accusations was “traumatic” for the team, which beat Uruguay 43-28 on Wednesday in the second of three matches on its South American tour.

“It was a difficult moment to handle emotionally,” captain Baptiste Couilloud told reporters after the win.

“Today we only thought about what was happening on the pitch and that’s the only thing that kept us going in this round.”

Part of the FFR delegation remained in Argentina with the two accused players.

The penalty for sexual assault in Argentina ranges from six to 15 years in prison, according to the penal code, but can go up to 20 years in cases of two attackers.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff except for the headline and is published for syndication.)

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