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Canadian soldier pleads not guilty at court martial to sexual assault

QUEBEC - A Canadian soldier facing a military tribunal for an alleged sexual assault pleaded not guilty to the charge Monday.

Warrant officer Andre Gagnon entered the plea at the opening of a court martial in Quebec City.

The indictment filed against Gagnon refers to one count under Sec. 130 of the National Defence Act as well as the Criminal Code section corresponding to sexual assault.

If found guilty, Gagnon could face a maximum of 10 years behind bars.

In the military hierarchy, Gagnon's warrant officer rank made him the superior to the alleged victim, a former corporal.

The offence is alleged to have taken place in December 2011 during a party at or near the Regiment de la Chaudiere armoury in Levis, Que.

The alleged victim is slated to testify Tuesday at the St-Malo Armoury, where the hearing is taking place.

She filed a complaint against Gagnon in 2011 and was subsequently discharged by the army.

Monday's hearing dealt mainly with legal questions and the selection of a committee of five soldiers who will determine Gagnon's fate.

That group will act in the same way as a jury in a civilian criminal trial.

Col. Mario Dutil, who is overseeing the hearing, rejected a motion from defence counsel Maj. Philippe-Luc Boutin, who called into question the constitutionality of Sec. 130 of the National Defence Act.

Boutin said he was worried about his client's constitutional rights.

The trial is expected to last about one week.

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