Indian police charge ex-UN climate chief with sexual harassment

New Delhi (AFP) - Indian police said Tuesday they had charged the former head of the UN climate change panel Rajendra Pachauri with sexual harassment, following a complaint by an ex-colleague at an environmental think-tank.

Police brought the charges against Pachauri in a Delhi trial court, more than a year after a female employee in her late twenties filed a complaint accusing him of sending inappropriate texts and emails.

"We have filed the charge sheet today and the court will decide when to begin the hearing," investigating officer Virender Dalal told AFP.

Police have charged Pachauri, 75, with four counts including sexual assault, harassment and criminal intimidation, according to the complainant's lawyer.

"Police have filed the nearly 1,400-page charge sheet in the trial court," lawyer Prashant Mendiratta told AFP.

"We will need time to examine the entire document but it states that they have found prima facie evidence," he added.

"Although they took more than a year to file charges, we hope the police will be able to prove the charges against him in court."

Pachauri, who is out on bail, denies the sexual harassment charges and has said his emails and mobile phone were hacked.

His lawyer Ashish Dixit said his client would defend the charges and stressed the case still had a long way to go.

"Obviously he is maintaining his innocence. The charge sheet doesn't make any difference because he has not given his side of the story," Dixit told AFP.

"The charge sheet is based on the complainant's statements. Arguments have not been heard from the other side," he said.

- Outrage -

Pachauri, a leading voice on the dangers of global warming, was forced to quit as chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in February 2015 after his colleague at the think-tank filed her complaint.

In July, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) based in New Delhi announced it was replacing Pachauri after a backlash over his return to work while facing the allegations.

A court had barred him from entering the institute's office for many months following the complaint.

It later allowed him to return to work while still on bail, on the condition that he steer clear of his alleged victim.

Last month his appointment as TERI executive vice-chairman caused outrage, forcing the institute, where he had worked for 35 years, to put him on indefinite leave.

Pachauri continues to hold the position, according to the TERI website.

His alleged victim, a researcher at TERI who cannot be named for legal reasons, accused Pachauri of sexual harassment soon after she joined the think-tank.

The woman, then aged 29, said Pachauri repeatedly sent inappropriate emails, text and WhatsApp messages.

In November she resigned from TERI, saying it had treated her in the "worst possible manner", a charge the institute denies.

The police charges will be heard by the trial court in south Delhi on April 23, with the prosecution naming 23 people as witnesses, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.