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Presidential hopeful quizzed in Strauss-Kahn inquiry

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-07-21

François Hollande (pictured), a former Socialist Party leader and current presidential hopeful, has been questioned in the inquiry into sexual assault charges brought by a Parisian writer against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

French Socialist and presidential hopeful François Hollande has been questioned by police as part of an investigation into attempted rape charges brought by a wealthy young Parisian writer against Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Hollande, who was not expected to be quizzed until September, turned up at police headquarters on Wednesday saying he wanted to get his testimony over with. "This is an affair that does not concern me," he told reporters.

It is the latest twist in the international saga revolving around the former IMF leader’s alleged sexual misbehaviour, which has gripped both sides of the Atlantic and shaken the French political world. In recent days, several key witnesses, including Strauss-Kahn’s daughter, Camille, and his ex-wife, Brigitte Guillemette, have been questioned by French investigators.

32-year-old Tristane Banon’s lawyer says that in 2003, his client told Hollande – then the leader of the French Socialist Party – that Strauss-Kahn had tried to rape her while she was interviewing him in a Parisian flat the previous year. Now Hollande may find himself in the hot seat amid speculation that he may have concealed damaging information about his fellow Socialist.

‘This has been tough for the Socialists’

Hollande told French daily newspaper Le Monde that Banon's mother, Anne Mansouret, had contacted him about the alleged incident, and that he had suggested that she get in touch with the police if a problem needed to be reported.

“I've nothing to hide and nothing to feel uneasy about, but I will not allow this case to be exploited politically,” Hollande was quoted as saying.

The bespectacled, mild-mannered Hollande has been polling strongly in recent surveys, beating out party leader Martine Aubry as well as his former partner and 2007 presidential candidate, Segolene Royal, for the Socialist nomination.

But after charges of attempted rape against Strauss-Kahn cost the politician his spot as frontrunner in the 2012 presidential election, this latest development may also hamper Hollande’s chances in the crucial campaigning period before the Socialist primaries in October.

According to Jerome Sainte-Marie, the director of the political research department at French polling agency CSA, it’s too early to tell. “We don’t know what will be unveiled about Hollande in this case, and especially what will be unveiled to the public at large,” Sainte-Marie told FRANCE 24. “But Hollande remains pretty far removed from this case, and I’m not convinced that public opinion will think he’s really involved.”

Still, with Strauss-Kahn out of the race and Hollande’s momentum at least temporarily slowed, Socialists appear to be struggling to find their footing in a presidential race that is seen as theirs to lose. Sarkozy remains unpopular, but pollster Ipsos has found his favourability ratings climbing slightly from 30 percent to 35 percent since last June. According to the latest survey by CSA, Sarkozy would beat Aubry and tie Hollande in a first-round vote.

“Of course this has been tough for the Socialists,” Sainte-Marie noted. “Their candidate with the best chance of winning [Strauss-Kahn] is now out of the race, and the Strauss-Kahn case hijacked the party’s message for months. That said, French people will likely be able to differentiate between this particular case and the rest of the Socialist candidates competing for the nomination.”

Strauss-Kahn’s daughter, ex-wife questioned

Banon filed her complaint in early July, saying that she was motivated to come forward with her story after Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in New York in May. Banon’s mother, Socialist politician Anne Mansouret, has said that she dissuaded her daughter from pressing charges in 2003.

Investigators are now busy collecting information and contacting people mentioned in Banon’s testimony before deciding whether there are grounds to pursue the case. In the meantime, Strauss-Kahn has filed a defamation complaint against Banon, who said in a 2007 TV interview that the politician had come on to her like “a rutting chimpanzee”. Strauss-Kahn’s name was censored from the broadcast.

Strauss-Kahn’s daughter Camille, a friend of Tristane Banon’s at the time of the alleged incident, was questioned by police on Monday following the accuser’s testimony that she had told Camille about the attempted rape.

Camille’s mother, Strauss-Kahn’s ex-wife Brigitte Guillemette, was questioned on Friday. Guillemette is Banon’s godmother and is said to have been told of the alleged assault by Banon’s mother, Anne Mansouret, shortly after it occured.

Strauss-Kahn himself remains in New York, where he awaits his next court date. He is currently not authorised to leave the US.

Date created : 2011-07-19


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