French writer vows to sue Strauss-Kahn
Issued on: Modified:
Tristane Banon (pictured), a French writer who claims Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2003, has said she will bring a civil case against the former head of the IMF if prosecutors choose not to press criminal charges.
AP - A French writer who alleges Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during a 2003 interview on Monday threatened to sue the former head of the International Monetary Fund if Paris prosecutors decide not to go forward with a criminal case against him.
Tristane Banon told Canal Plus television “it hurt” to watch Strauss-Kahn’s much-anticipated interview with French TV a day earlier. Sunday’s interview was Strauss-Kahn’s first public appearance in France since his May 14 arrest in New York on separate accusations of sexual assault by a hotel maid there.
Banon gave a brief run-down of the alleged February 2003 incident, which she said took place in an empty apartment where Strauss-Kahn asked her to meet for a follow-up interview for a book she was writing.
“When I arrived he locked the door ... I didn’t feel good about that but I couldn’t begin to imagine what was going to happen next,” Banon said. “Very quickly, it turned sour and we fought. I think if I’d not been very lucky, I would have gotten raped.”
She defended her decision not to press charges against Strauss-Kahn at the time of the alleged incident, which she said took place when she was 23 years old and Strauss-Kahn was an eminence grise of the France’s Socialist party.
“When I see how I’m getting crushed even now, when there’s ... a doubt hanging over him, I think if I’d done it then ... mine would have been added to the tally of suicides,” she said.
In Sunday’s interview, Strauss-Kahn dismissed Banon’s claims as “imaginary” and “slanderous.”
Police questioned Strauss-Kahn about the case last week, and the Paris prosecutor’s office must decide whether or not to pursue the case, which could result in a possible trial.
The New York prosecutor dropped all criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn last month - but his accuser in that case, Sofitel hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, has brought a lawsuit against him.
Banon vowed to do the same.
If the charges are dropped, “I will sue,” she said, adding “it’s not just his word against mine.”
Sunday’s interview elicited divided responses in France, where before the start of his legal imbroglio, Strauss-Kahn had been considered a top contender in next year’s presidential elections.
A day after the 20-minute-long appearance on TF1, the only agreement within the political elite was that the man known throughout the country as DSK would not quickly return to politics. Some fellow Socialists even said it was time for France to move on without him.
In the highly anticipated interview, Strauss-Kahn told the broadcaster that his encounter with Diallo constituted a “moral failing” that he deeply regrets. Still he insisted there was no violence in the encounter.
Strauss-Kahn’s TV appearance drew 13.4 million viewers _ more than a fifth of the French population and 47 percent of the audience share, according to measurement agency Mediametrie.
The last time for such a high score was in November 2005, during the fiery unrest that gripped France’s troubled housing projects.
Political rivals and lawyers for Diallo criticized Strauss-Kahn for failing to give his version of exactly what happened in the hotel room where the maid claims she was attacked as she entered to clean.
“Mr. Strauss-Kahn distorted by transforming (the interview) into a magic sponge that cleanses him of everything that happened in New York,” Thibault de Montbrial, Diallo’s lawyer in Paris, told Associated Press Television News.
“I don’t really think it was an interview, I think it was a publicity stunt,” one of Diallo’s New York-based attorneys, Kenneth Thompson, told France-24 news channel. “Mr. Strauss-Kahn never said a single word about what happened in the hotel room between himself and Ms. Diallo.”
Thompson and fellow lawyer Douglas Wigdor added in a written statement to The Associated Press that “We look forward to greeting (him) in our offices and asking him the questions the reporter failed to do.”
Ploy or not, the move worked for Socialist Party stalwart Jack Lang, a former culture minister.
“Personally I thought he was remarkable,” Lang told AP. “I thought he was excellent “ sincere, clear, humble.”
But conservative party leader Jean-Francois Cope said Strauss-Kahn put in a “sad and laughable” performance, adding “it’s time to turn the page.”
Even other Socialists, deeply embarrassed by the affair, looked ahead to an era sans DSK as they prepared to pick a candidate through a vote in October.
Segolene Royal, who ran against President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 and is among six seeking the Socialist party’s candidacy, said the Strauss-Kahn interview “allowed us to close something that has occupied us for too long.”
It’s now time to “turn the page” and “raise the level of political debate,” she said on RTL radio.