Woman held over sex tape that sank ally of Macron

PARIS • French police have arrested the girlfriend of a Russian activist who released a sex video of a prominent ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, prosecutors said yesterday.

Pyotr Pavlensky's girlfriend was arrested last Saturday evening on charges of invasion of privacy and publishing images of a sexual nature without consent, the Paris prosecutor's office said.

Her arrest stemmed from the release by Pavlensky, a protest artist best known before now for nailing his scrotum to Red Square in Moscow, of a video of a man masturbating accompanied by screengrabs of racy text messages sent to a woman.

Pavlensky claimed the messages were sent by former government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux, who was the candidate of the ruling Republic on the Move party (LREM) for Paris mayor in next month's municipal elections.

His girlfriend, who was not named by investigators, is suspected of having received the video.

Mr Griveaux dropped out of the race last Friday in the wake of the video's release, saying he wanted to protect his family. He has not disputed that he sent the messages.

Pavlensky, who claimed political asylum in France in 2017, was detained last Saturday.

Investigators said his arrest was over a fight at a Paris apartment on Dec 31 in which two guests apparently suffered stab wounds and where he is accused of wielding a knife.

However, they may also question him over the sex tape.

Last Friday, Pavlensky told Agence France-Presse that he had posted the footage online in order to expose the "hypocrisy" of the 42-year-old Mr Griveaux and planned to post more material on a newly created "political porn platform".

Mr Griveaux "is someone who constantly brings up family values, who says he wants to be the mayor of families and always cites his wife and children as an example. But he is doing the opposite", he told the Liberation daily.

 
 

Politicians from across the French spectrum took a different view of the matter, however, calling the video an intolerable invasion of Mr Griveaux's privacy.

Under French law, so-called "revenge porn", or the publishing of pornographic material without a person's consent, can be punished by up to two years in prison and a fine of €60,000 (S$90,550).

Mr Macron's LREM, which is poised for a drubbing in the municipal elections according to opinion polls, has been left scrambling to find another candidate to try topple Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a Socialist.

Pavlensky has a track record of causing outrage.

His Red Square protest made global headlines in 2013 and two years later, he doused the doors of the Federal Security Service secret police headquarters with petrol and set them on fire.

In October 2017, he set fire to the offices of the Bank of France on Place de la Bastille, the site of the attack on an infamous prison at the start of the French Revolution in 1789, and later received a jail sentence for the stunt.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2020, with the headline 'Woman held over sex tape that sank ally of Macron'. Print Edition | Subscribe