French filmmaker Ruggia charged in underage sex assault case on actress Haenel

French director Christophe Ruggia was charged on Thursday and placed under judicial supervision after 48 hours in police custody, the Paris public prosecutor's office said, over accusations of sexual assault on French actress Adèle Haenel when she was a minor.

The 55-year-old director, who denies the accusations, was charged with sexual assault of a minor "by a person with authority over the victim", the prosecutor's office said.

Ruggia has been placed under judicial supervision pending the investigation, and is barred from meeting Haenel, a source close to the investigation told AFP.

Haenel, 31, lodged a formal complaint against Ruggia in November after accusing him in an interview of sexually harassing her when she was between the ages of 12 and 15. She accused Ruggia, who directed her in the 2002 movie "The Devils", her first film role, of repeatedly touching and kissing her during the making of that film.

Ruggia at first fiercely denied harassing Haenel on the set of the 2002 movie before asking her to forgive him. He then said that she was targeting him because he denied her a part in another film.

Haenel's accusations stunned the French film industry, which has generally been slower than Hollywood to react to the #MeToo movement that has turned the spotlight on sexual abuse in the sector.

But she won support from some of the top names of French cinema including the actress Marion Cotillard, who hailed Haenel for "breaking a silence that was so heavy".

Haenel, who starred in the period drama "Portrait of a Lady on Fire", one of last year's art house hits, initially said she did not intend to file a complaint, slamming the "contempt with which the judicial system treats women".

But prosecutors opened an investigation of their own accord and Haenel eventually did file a complaint.

Haenel said also that Ruggia's public denials had made her "determined to obtain through judicial means the status of a victim".

In another case to shake the French cultural world, the award-winning essayist Gabriel Matzneff is the subject of a rape investigation after prominent publisher Vanessa Springora published a memoir describing a sexual relationship she had with him while she was still a minor.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)