French 'doctor to the stars' gets 10 years for sex crimes

PARIS (AFP) - A French osteopath whose list of famous clients included Pablo Picasso and Rudolf Nureyev was on Friday sentenced to 10 years in jail for raping and sexually assaulting female patients.

Nineteen women had come forward to accuse Pierre Pallardy, 72, of unwanted sexual advances. A court in Paris found him guilty of five instances of rape and seven cases of sexual assault.

Throughout his three-week trial Pallardy denied the accusations against him, arguing that the plaintiffs had misinterpreted his "powerful" therapeutic methods, which he claimed could bring repressed memories of sexual violence to the surface.

Prosecutors had asked for a 12-year jail term, saying the doctor had used his position of authority to abuse women who were in a fragile state.

The defence condemned the verdict, which they said did not reflect the truth in a case that lacked "objective proof".

Among the accusations against Pallardy was that he fondled patients sexually during treatments at his office in Paris' fashionable 16th district.

After an initial complaint against him in 2004 that did not lead to a criminal case, Pallardy was arrested in 2006.

Pallardy has treated many of France's best-known figures using osteopathy, a practice involving the manipulation of muscles and bones to promote health.

The author of several bestsellers and founder of wellness centres, Pallardy and his wife Florence were once hailed by the French media as the country's "First Couple of Health".

His wife told the court the charges were baseless as her husband had been impotent since 2003 because of a prostate problem.