Rape-accused Tariq Ramadan loses appeal for early release ahead of trial

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Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, detained in France over rape allegations by four women, has lost an appeal for early release ahead of his trial, the Paris appeals court said Tuesday.

Judges had earlier this month refused bail for 55-year-old Ramadan, who is being treated behind bars for multiple sclerosis, as well as a request for release on health grounds.

The Swiss citizen was not in court to hear Tuesday's ruling as his defence argued that testimony from his accusers contained "contradictions".

"There is no objective reason to keep Mr Tariq Ramadan in provisional custody," his lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny told AFP after failing to sway the court.

He had proposed that Ramadan be held at home and surrender his passport.

"The presumption of innocence is trampled underfoot," Marsigny added.

The prominent TV pundit and Oxford University professor, whose grandfather founded Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement, has been held since February on charges that he raped two women in France. Two other women have since made rape claims against him.

Prosecutors argued Ramadan should stay in detention over fears that he could potentially flee France and also to protect the women who made the allegations against him.

While the investigation is under way, "it appears to the plaintiffs more desirable that Mr Ramadan be available to the court," said Francis Szpiner, a lawyer for two of Ramadan's accusers.

Many of Ramadan's supporters -- including two million Facebook followers -- insist he has been unfairly targeted because he is Muslim, while Marsigny has slammed what he describes as "lies" and inconsistencies by Ramadan's accusers.

Ramadan's first accuser, Henda Ayari, 41, is a feminist activist who previously practised a conservative strain of Islam. She says Ramadan raped her in a Paris hotel room in 2012.

A second woman, who is disabled, claims that Ramadan raped and beat her in a hotel in the southeastern city of Lyon in 2009.

The third accuser, a French Muslim woman who is using the pseudonym "Marie", came forward in early March and claims to have suffered multiple rapes in France, Brussels and London between 2013 and 2014.

A fourth woman has filed rape charges in Geneva against Ramadan.

Ramadan has denied wrongdoing and is suing one of his accusers, Ayari, for slander.

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