Strauss-Kahn faces French sex assault accuser
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In the first face-to-face encounter since his May 14 arrest in New York, Dominique Strauss-Kahn Thursday faced Tristane Banon (right), a French writer who has accused the former IMF chief of attempted rape in 2003.
Disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn confronted a French writer who has accused him of attempted rape in 2003 on Thursday, in the first face-to-face between the two since the French politician returned to Paris following the collapse of another sexual assault case in New York.
Thursday’s meeting between 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn and 32-year-old writer Tristane Banon took place in an interview suite in the Paris police criminal investigation department's headquarters as part of a probe into the alleged 2003 assault.
Banon arrived by car Thursday morning followed around half an hour later by the Socialist politician, with a large crowd of photographers awaiting them. The meeting lasted approximately two hours.
The meeting was in the presence of police officials but there were no lawyers present in the interview suite.
According to legal experts, it could be the last stage of the pretrial process before a decision is made on whether the statute of limitation for the alleged crime has expired or whether a judicial investigation with the appointment of a judge can be opened. Meetings such as these are sometimes used in France to help officials decide if a case is worth pursuing.
Allegations across the Atlantic
Banon, a writer and journalist, filed a complaint against Strauss-Kahn in July when doubts started to emerge about the credibility of a New York hotel maid, who accused the French Socialist politician of sexual assault in Manhattan hotel suite in May.
Criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn in the New York case were subsequently dropped and the former IMF head returned to Paris earlier this month.
Earlier this week, lawyers for Strauss-Kahn asked a New York judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit against him, saying he was entitled to immunity under a United Nations convention that protects the heads of specialised agencies.
The collapse of the New York case did not appear to deter Banon, who has repeatedly told the press that she would like Strauss-Kahn to “look me in the eye and tell me the allegations are false”.
Strauss-Kahn has denied Banon’s attempted rape accusations. In an interview with a French TV station earlier this month, the former IMF chief said the French writer’s description of events of that fateful day in February 2003 was "a figment of her own imagination," and added that he had filed a complaint for slander.
French politicians and their ‘biggest ever mistakes’
The February 2003 encounter took place when Banon interviewed Strauss-Kahn for a book she was then writing about the “biggest ever mistake” French politicians had made. It was during the interview in a Paris apartment that she claims Strauss-Kahn made one of his biggest mistakes.
Banon has publicly talked about the incident in the past, including a 2007 interview with a French TV station, when the young writer said, “We fought on the floor. It wasn't a case of a couple of slaps. I kicked him, he unhooked my bra, he tried to open my jeans.”
In his first media interview since his May 14 arrest, Strauss-Kahn denied attacking Banon, but he did not deny that there had been an encounter. He however maintained that there was "no aggression" and "no violence" by him against Banon.
The recent sexual allegations against Strauss-Kahn on both sides of the Atlantic have sparked a heated debate in his homeland over whether the French are too soft on men in power and too tolerant of their sexual exploits to the point of criminal negligence.
At a rally in Paris in support of Banon over the weekend, the young French writer’s mother, Socialist politician Anne Mansouret – who has herself admitted to having “brutal” but consensual sex with Strauss-Kahn - said she hoped her daughter would not be “intimidated” by her face-to-face encounter with the former IMF chief.