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Topless protesters target Strauss-Kahn at pimping trial

Denis Charlet, AFP I Police detain a Femen activist who jumped in front of the car carrying former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn as he arrives for his trial in Lille, northern France, on February 10, 2015

Three topless women from the feminist protest group Femen jumped on the car of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the former IMF chief arrived to testify on Tuesday at a trial in which he is accused of being at the core of a prostitution ring.

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With slogans scrawled on their half-naked bodies and hurling insults at the car, the three protesters were quickly rounded up by police as the car entered an underground parking area.

Strauss-Khan, known in France as DSK and once tipped to become president of France before his ambitions were torpedoed after he was accused of sexual assault by a New York maid in 2011, is facing charges of “aggravated pimping” over allegations he instigated sex parties involving prostitutes between 2008-2011 in the northern French city of Lille, Brussels, Paris and Washington DC.

The presence of the silver-haired economist, the most high-profile of the 14 accused in the three-week trial, drew crowds of journalists and curious onlookers outside the court in Lille.

It is the first time DSK will appear at the trial since its opening day last Monday. He is expected to argue he is merely a libertine who engaged in orgies with consenting adults and did not know the women lavishing their attention on him were prostitutes.

This has been backed up by businessman David Roquet, also on trial as one of the alleged organisers of the notorious sex parties.

“I think Roquet wanted to please Strauss-Kahn, and that's the problem with this case,” said Roquet’s lawyer Stephane Squillaci. “Roquet brought girls, introduced them, and because he didn't want to make him feel bad he said they were secretaries for his company, or his girlfriend. He never said they were prostitutes, never.”

Likely or credible?

But two former prostitutes who say they attended the parties have testified that the former IMF boss knew exactly why they were there.

Anti-prostitution campaigners have also found the line hard to swallow.

“We'll see over the next three days during Strauss-Kahn's questioning whether it's likely or credible that a former IMF Director-General, a former qualified professor, a former finance minister, this great international expert could be lacking in lucidity and clear-sightedness to the point of thinking that all these women present were only there because of his power of seduction,” said Emmanuel Daoud Lawyer the NID anti-prostitution association.

Strauss-Kahn, who says his political career is over, risks as much as 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 1.5 million euros ($1.72 million) if convicted.

Prostitution is legal in France but procuring – the legal term for pimping which includes encouraging, benefiting from or organising prostitution – is a crime.

Investigating magistrates say that charge applies because in France it covers any activity seen as facilitating prostitution. In Strauss-Kahn’s case, it is alleged that he allowed his rented apartment to be used for sex parties involving prostitutes and that the parties were organised for his benefit.

Moreover, because he did not pay them himself, he is alleged to have received benefit in kind from prostitution.

The scandal, dubbed the “Carlton affair” after the Lille hotel close to where some of the parties are said to have taken place, is the latest in a series of cases offering a peek behind the bedroom door of a man once tipped as a potential challenger to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

France was stunned when it saw Strauss-Kahn paraded handcuffed in front of the world's cameras after New York hotel chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo maid accused him of sexual assault in May 2011 – a case that was eventually settled in a civil suit.

The accusations made made it impossible for him to run on the Socialist ticket for the presidential election in the following year. That allowed Francois Hollande to come forward and beat conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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