The presence of Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan at a conference on sexual violence in the suburbs of Paris provoked a backlash of indignation among organisers and attendees.
Mr Ramadan, who is facing charges for the rape of two women was spotted in the audience during a conference in Saint-Denis on Monday and was asked to leave.
“His attendance as spectator is an unacceptable provocation,” municipal representative Madjid Messaoudene said, according to French media.
“Neither the municipality or the participants had invited Mr Ramadan to attend the event or wanted him to be present.”
Mr Messaoudene said that while “it is not possible to physically force Mr Ramadan to quit a public meeting,” he was asked multiple times to leave.
The municipality said in a statement that “his despicable provocations need to stop” and that Mr Ramadan should “show a minimum decency by leaving those who are battling against gender-based violence alone.”
While some participants quit the room in protest over Mr Ramadan’s presence, Anaïs Bourdet, who runs a platform to denounce street harassment, chose to remain. “On my part, I chose to remain because I refuse to let him take the opportunity for dialogue from us.”
Mr Ramadan, 56, is currently out on bail and has surrendered his passport to the French authorities. A French court rejected his request to drop the two rape charges earlier this month.
The Oxford University professor was accused of raping two woman in 2009 and 2012. One is the outspoken feminist and activist Henda Ayari and the other, a disabled convert to Islam who has been named only as “Christelle,” has said Mr Ramadan assaulted her too.
Mr Ramadan had previously denied having any sexual contact with either.
He was released on a €300,000 (Dh1.24 million) bail last November after ten months in a French jail. The Swiss academic was a professor at Oxford University but agreed to take a leave of absence in November 2017 when the allegations surfaced.