Dozens of French actors denounce 'lynching' of Depardieu

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    French actor Gerard Depardieu (AFP) 

    PARIS (AFP) - Nearly 60 French actors and other prominent figures have denounced the "lynching" of disgraced cinema legend Gerard Depardieu, who is charged with rape and facing a litany of sexual assault claims.

    Depardieu, 74, who has made more than 200 films and television series, was charged with rape in 2020 and has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women.

    "Gerard Depardieu is probably the greatest of all actors," said an open letter published in French newspaper Le Figaro late Monday, Christmas Day.

    The signatories included British actress Charlotte Rampling, former French first lady and singer Carla Bruni, and French actor Pierre Richard.

    "We can no longer remain silent in the face of the lynching he is facing," they wrote, calling the attacks against him a "torrent of hatred".

    The letter said Depardieu was being attacked "in defiance of a presumption of innocence from which he would have benefited, like everyone else, if he weren't the cinema giant he is."

    The actor faces fresh scrutiny over sexist comments caught on camera during a trip to North Korea in 2018 that were broadcast for the first time in a documentary on national television this month.

    The letter, which was also signed by the actor's former partner actress Carole Bouquet, added: "When people attack Gerard Depardieu in this way, they are attacking art."

    "France owes him so much. Cinema and theatre cannot do without his unique and extraordinary personality," the celebrities said.

    "Nobody can erase the indelible imprint of his work on our times".

    Last week French President Emmanuel Macron said Depardieu had become the target of a "manhunt", while his family has denounced an "unprecedented conspiracy" against him.

    Rights activists have denounced Macron's comments as an "insult" to all women who have suffered sexual violence.

    Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak said the actor might be stripped of the Legion of Honour, the country's top award.

    Depardieu has created a number of scandals over the years, including by public brawling, drunk driving and urinating in the cabin of a commercial aircraft.