Renowned Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan has been cleared of rape and sexual coercion charges after a Swiss court found no evidence against the former Oxford University professor.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, soon after the verdict on Wednesday, said they will appeal the Geneva Criminal Court ruling.
The academic was also awarded about 151,000 Swiss francs ($167,000) in damages from the Swiss canton of Geneva.
After the verdict was read in the court, the 60-year-old Swiss preacher smiled and was hugged by one of his daughters.
His 57-year-old Swiss accuser, identified under the assumed name of “Brigitte”, left the courtroom before the end of the verdict. The woman had accused Ramadan of raping her in a Geneva hotel in 2008.
Prosecutors had last week called for a three-year jail sentence for Ramadan. The case was the first time he had been tried for rape, although he risks facing a trial in France on charges of sexual assault.
The lawyer representing Brigitte, a convert to Islam, said she was repeatedly raped and subjected to “torture and barbarism”.
Ramadan, a prominent figure in European Islam, rejected the charges, insisting there was no sexual activity between him and Brigitte, and saying he was the victim of a “trap”.
Meanwhile, the defence insisted on Ramadan’s innocence and stressed there was no scientific evidence in the case. During his final statements in court last week, Ramadan asked not to be tried on his “real or supposed ideology” and urged the judges not to be “influenced by the media and political noise”.
Brigitte was in her early 40s at the time of the alleged assault in 2008. She filed a complaint 10 years later, telling the court she felt emboldened to come forward following similar complaints filed in France.
The Swiss-born scholar was arrested in 2018, months after several women came forward to accuse him of sexual assault in the wake of the #MeToo movement. He was granted bail in those cases after nearly 10 months in French detention.
His lawyers also accused Brigitte and the women who have brought charges against him in France of forging links to bring down the Islamic scholar, citing “Ramadanphobia”.
Ramadan has consistently denied all accusations. He is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
A controversial figure in the West, Ramadan obtained a doctorate from the University of Geneva. He was a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford until November 2017 and held visiting roles at universities in Qatar and Morocco.
Ramadan was forced to take a leave of absence when rape allegations surfaced in France over suspected attacks between 2009 and 2016.