Canada radio host Jian Ghomeshi charged with sexual assault

Former syndicated radio host Jian Ghomeshi arrives on the red carpet at the 2014 Canadian Screen awards in Toronto in this file photo from March 9, 2014. Ghomeshi, at the heart of one of Canada's biggest sex scandals, has been charged with sexua
Former syndicated radio host Jian Ghomeshi arrives on the red carpet at the 2014 Canadian Screen awards in Toronto in this file photo from March 9, 2014. Ghomeshi, at the heart of one of Canada's biggest sex scandals, has been charged with sexual assault and will appear in court later Nov 26, 2014, police said. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (AFP) - Former syndicated radio host Jian Ghomeshi was charged Wednesday with sexual assault after several women came forward with abuse allegations that led to his recent firing by Canada's public broadcaster.

Ghomeshi, 47, turned himself into Toronto police to face the charges - four counts of sexual assault and one of choking, according to a Toronto police statement.

Following a brief court appearance in which he was granted bail, he said through his lawyer that he would plead not guilty.

It came a day after he withdrew a C$55 million (S$63.5 million) lawsuit against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for wrongful dismissal.

Ghomeshi has argued that the sex was consensual "rough sex" of the kind found in erotic romance novels such as the best-seller 50 Shades Of Grey.

But CBC head of English programming Heather Conway characterised the allegations as "inflicting an injury on another human being."

The initial accusations were made anonymously but since then, at least nine women have come forward with stories of being strangled, punched and slammed against walls by Ghomeshi.

The case triggered an uproar in Canada, leading to an urgent public debate on sexual violence in society, as well as a rise in the number of complaints - including by two parliamentarians against two fellow lawmakers.

Ghomeshi's top-rated arts magazine radio show Q was heard across Canada and in more than 180 cities in the United States.