Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis arrested in Italy for sexual assault

Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis arrested in Italy for sexual assault

June 20 (Reuters) – Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis is under house arrest in southern Italy on charges of sexual assault and aggravated bodily harm, charges the Canadian director has denied, his lawyers said on Monday.

“Mr. Paul Haggis was arrested on Sunday with an emergency order issued by Brindisi prosecutors and is currently under house arrest in Ostuni. He will be questioned by Thursday by a judge who will have to decide whether or not to confirm the detention” , his Italian lawyer Michele Laforgia told Reuters.

Haggis was charged with forcing a woman to have sex for two days in Ostuni, Italy, Brindisi prosecutors said in a statement on Sunday.

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“Under Italian law, I cannot discuss the evidence. That said, I am confident that all allegations against Mr. Haggis will be dismissed,” Haggis’ personal attorney Priya Chaudhry said in a statement.

Both attorneys said Haggis pleaded innocent and would cooperate with authorities.

“A young foreign woman was forced to seek treatment” following the sexual intercourse, prosecutors said in the statement.

They said that on Sunday after the alleged assault, the suspect accompanied the woman to Brindisi airport, where she was abandoned despite her “precarious physical and psychological conditions”. Prosecutors did not name Haggis and referred to the suspect by his initials.

An investigative source told Reuters the unidentified woman will be questioned within the next 10 days in what is known in Italy as an evidentiary incident, presenting evidence for a possible future trial.

Haggis, 69, wrote “Million Dollar Baby” and co-wrote and directed crime drama “Crash.” He won two Oscars for “Crash” – one for “Best Picture” and one for “Best Original Screenplay”.

In 2018, he denied accusations of sexual misconduct by four women, including two who accused him of rape.

Haggis was in Ostuni to teach several classes at Allora Fest, a new film event launched by LA-based Italian journalist Silvia Bizio and Spanish art critic Sol Costales Doulton that will run June 21-26.

The Allora Fest said it “learned with dismay and shock the news”, adding that the directors of the festival “immediately proceeded to withdraw any participation of the director in the event”.

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Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington and Emilio Parodi in Milan; Additional reporting by Francesca Landini in Milan; Editing by Toby Chopra, Angus MacSwan and Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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