Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis arrested in Italy on sexual assault charges


June 20 (Reuters) – Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis is under house arrest in southern Italy on charges of sexual assault and serious personal injury, lawyers said, charges the Canadian director denies.

“Mr Paul Haggis was arrested on Sunday under an emergency procedure issued by the Prosecutors of Brindisi and is now under house arrest in Ostuni. He will be questioned by Thursday by a judge who will decide whether or not to confirm the arrest.” Italian lawyer Michele Laforgia told Reuters.

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

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

Both lawyers said Haggis was defending his innocence and would cooperate with authorities.

In the statement, prosecutors said a “foreign young woman was forced to seek medical attention” after having sex.

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

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

Haggis, 69, wrote “Million Dollar Baby” and co-wrote and directed the 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 made by four women, including two who accused him of rape.

Haggis has been in Ostuni for several seasons of the Allora Festival, a new film event launched by Los Angeles-based Italian journalist Silvia Pizzo and Spanish art critic Sol Costales Dolton that is set to run from June 21 to June 26.

The Alora Festival said they “learn with fear and shock the news,” adding that festival directors “immediately proceeded to remove any director’s participation from 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 McSwan, and Lisa Schumaker

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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