Canadian screenwriter and director Paul Haggis has been charged with sexual assault, Italian public prosecutors say.

His lawyers say Haggis is pleading innocent and will cooperate with authorities.
His lawyers say Haggis is pleading innocent and will cooperate with authorities. (AFP)

Oscar-winning Canadian screenwriter and director Paul Haggis is under house arrest in southern Italy on charges of sexual assault and aggravated personal injury, accusations that Haggis denies, his lawyers have said.

"Mr Paul Haggis was detained on Sunday with an emergency measure issued by the Brindisi prosecutors and is now under house arrest in Ostuni. He will be questioned by Thursday by a judge who will have to decide whether or not to confirm the detention," his Italian lawyer Michele Laforgia said on Monday.

Haggis was charged with forcing a young non-Italian woman to have intimate relations against her will in Ostuni, Italy, public prosecutors in Brindisi said in a statement on Sunday.

"Under Italian Law, I cannot discuss the evidence. That said, I am confident that all allegations will be dismissed against Mr Haggis," Haggis' personal attorney Priya Chaudhry said in a statement.

Both lawyers said Haggis was pleading innocent and would cooperate with authorities.

"A young foreign woman was forced to seek medical care" following the sexual relations, the prosecutors said in the statement.

They said that on Sunday after the non-consensual relations that man accompanied the woman to Brindisi airport, where she was left despite her "precarious physical and psychological conditions".

An investigative source said the unidentified young woman will be questioned in the coming 10 days in what is known in Italy as an evidentiary incident, setting out evidence for a possible future trial.

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Other accusations from 2018

Haggis, 69, wrote "Million Dollar Baby" and co-wrote and directed "Crash", both of which he won an Oscar for.

Haggis was in Ostuni to hold several masterclasses at the Allora Fest, a new film event being launched by Los Angeles-based Italian journalist Silvia Bizio and Spanish art critic Sol Costales Doulton that is set to run from June 21 to June 26.

The Allora Fest said they "learned with dismay and shock the news", adding that the festival's directors "immediately proceeded to remove any participation of the director from the event".

In 2018 he denied accusations of sexual misconduct made by four women, including two who accused him of rape.

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Source: Reuters