St. Petersburg Times, Russia
By Francesca Mereu
Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Police have detained a French psychotherapist who is wanted in France after being convicted in absentia last year of sexually abusing several female patients. He has lived and worked in Moscow for seven years.

The psychotherapist, Jeannot Hoareau, believes the case is politically motivated and is hoping to be granted asylum in Russia, his lawyer, Igor Trunov, said Monday.

Hoareau, a specialist in forensic psychiatry and sexual disorders, had been treating people at the European Center for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, which he opened in Moscow last year. He had previously worked at the European Medical Center for six years.

A French court convicted Hoareau last May of sexually abusing five patients and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Interpol then issued an international warrant for his arrest, and Moscow police detained him in his office on Friday.

“The French authorities are demanding Hoareau’s extradition. We are waiting for the decision of the Russian authorities,” a French Embassy spokesman said Monday.

Russia signed an extradition treaty with EU member nations in 1999. Extradition cases usually take at least six months to be decided, Trunov said.

Interpol’s Moscow office would not comment on the case Monday.

Trunov said his client believed the charges were retribution for his family’s ties to the French Communist Party. Hoareau’s father was a Communist official from Reunion, a French island off the coast of Madagascar, he said, adding that he could not elaborate on his client’s arguments because he had not had much time to speak with him.

Hoareau graduated from the medical department of the People’s Friendship University in 1975. He has a Russian wife and two children.

Trunov said he would argue that Hoareau could not be extradited because he had been tried in absentia.

“He was sentenced in absentia and was not even given the opportunity to defend himself. This is a clear violation of his rights,” he said by telephone.

He said Hoareau had been unaware of the court ruling.

Agence France Presse reported, however, that Hoareau had known about the trial and had not attended on the advice of his French lawyers.

Hoareau, speaking to AFP on Friday, maintained his innocence, saying he was guilty of nothing more than “stupidity” and that “five complaints in a 15-year career is nothing.”

Hoareau acknowledged having consensual sex with one patient, but he said the other four had imagined he had abused them because of their psychological problems, the report said.

The five complaints were filed between 1993 and 1995. One woman said she was sexually assaulted after Hoareau gave her sleeping pills.

French police detained Hoareau in September 1995, and he was held for seven months in a prison in Fresnes, in the Paris region. He was released after signing a pledge not to treat patients pending the outcome of a trial.

Hoareau then made his way to Russia, and he worked at the European Medical Center from 1999 to 2005.

The center’s chief doctor, Leonid Pechatnikov, said Monday that the news of the charges and trial came as a surprise to the center’s staff.

“When he was hired, we checked with the French Embassy, and they never said anything about him being under investigation in France,” Pechatnikov said. “He had all the necessary work permits to practice in our center, and everyone was happy with his skills.”

Pechatnikov said Hoareau had often traveled to France without any problem.

Trunov said he did not know whether Hoareau had visited France.

He stressed that Hoareau had broken no Russian law because he had met all the requirements to practice psychiatry in Moscow.

Hoareau is being held at the police headquarters at Petrovka 38, instead of at the usual detention center for foreigners, because of a problem with paperwork, said Trunov, a high-profile lawyer whose clients have included relatives of those killed in Moscow’s Dubrovka theater attack in 2002 and the Transvaal Park roof collapse in 2004.

Hoareau graduated with a degree in psychiatry from Paris University in 1981, AFP reported.

He worked for 18 years in various Paris hospitals as well as in private practice. In 1993, he was elected president of the European Hypnosis Association.