Costa Rica ex-leader Oscar Arias accused of sexual assault


SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — Former President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was enveloped in scandal Tuesday after a sexual assault complaint was brought against him by a nuclear disarmament activist.

Arias denied the allegation, saying he has never acted against the will of any woman and has fought for gender equality during his career.

According to the publication Semanario Universidad, the woman said the incident took place Dec. 1, 2014, at the ex-president’s home in the capital, San Jose, where she had come for a meeting related to her cause.

She told the publication that Arias grabbed her from behind, touched her breasts, began to kiss her and penetrated her with his fingers, while she reminded him that he was a married man.

“I do not remember well what he replied to me, but he continued to touch me, he inserted his fingers into my vagina and touched me everywhere and kissed me,” the woman was quoted as saying. “Then he told me to wait a bit and he left the office. I didn’t know what to do. I felt trapped in that moment.”

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Semanario Universidad posted a partial image of the criminal complaint filed Monday afternoon that names the suspected crime as rape.

The woman’s name was not contained in the complaint and the publication did not identify her.

Responding to an Associated Press request for comment, the prosecutor’s office acknowledged receiving “a complaint against a person with the last name Arias for a presumed sexual crime,” but said it was prevented by law from releasing more information.

According to Semanario Universidad, the woman — who was then 30 — said Arias proposed meeting elsewhere, and she used that as an excuse to leave, later telling him she had gone to a meeting with an adviser to a then-lawmaker. She asked them to let her go to the National Assembly building for fear the word would get back to Arias if she did not.

The lawmaker and the adviser confirmed to Semanario Universidad that the activist had told them about the alleged incident and was visibly upset.

“I have never acted in disrespect of the will of any woman, much less in the case of their freedom to relate with another person,” Arias said in a brief statement. “In my public life I have promoted gender equality since I consider it an indispensable means to achieve a more just and equitable society for all people.”

The statement added that since there was a complaint against him, he would have no further public comment and would mount his defense in court.

Arias was president of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990 and again in 2006-2010. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to end civil wars in nearby Central American nations.

Arias also faces a separate complaint involving purported favorable treatment for a mining project in 2008.

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