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Paul Haggis, Oscar-winning screenwriter and director, detained in Italy on sexual assault charges


By Toyin Owoseje and Hada Messia, CNN

Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis has been detained in Italy over allegations of sexual assault and aggravated personal injury, according to a statement from local prosecutors and his legal team.

The 69-year-old Canadian-born director and screenwriter, who won two Oscars for the 2004 crime drama “Crash,” was in the country to attend a film festival that begins Tuesday in Ostuni, a tourist town in the southern Italian region of Puglia.

Public prosecutors in the nearby town of Brindisi said in a statement Sunday that they issued a warrant for the detention of a “70-year-old” Canadian man identified as “P.H.,” who was staying in Ostuni.

They said: “The man is seriously suspected of the crimes of aggravated sexual violence and aggravated personal injury, crimes committed to the detriment of a young foreign woman.”

Haggis’ US-based attorney, Priya Chaudhry, told CNN in an email on Monday that she was “confident that all allegations will be dismissed against Mr. Haggis,” while noting that Italian law prevents her from discussing the evidence.

She added: “He is totally innocent, and willing to fully cooperate with the authorities so the truth comes out quickly.”

Haggis’ lawyer in Italy, Michele Laforgia, said in a press statement Sunday: “Paul Haggis is currently in Ostuni, at his home, under ‘detention’ by order of the Public Prosecutor of Brindisi. We are waiting to be summoned by the Judge for Preliminary Investigations for the custody interrogation and to render our version of the facts.”

He added: “Haggis immediately declared that he was completely innocent and that he hopes for the maximum speed of all the necessary investigations to clarify the matter. Obviously we cannot declare anything further nor give details of the accusations until we learn fully the acts of the legal case behind the cautionary measure and we have been heard by the judicial authorities.”

Haggis is an acclaimed director, producer and screenwriter. His film credits include “Crash,” which earned him Oscars for best picture and best original screenplay at the 2006 Academy Awards, and the screenplays for the multi-Oscar-winning “Million Dollar Baby” as well as the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace.”

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