International

French society polarised on Strauss-Khan

A woman reads "Le Monde" with the headline is "(Dominique Strauss-Kahn) DSK's scandal: a earthquake for the euro, the IMF and the left-wing", in Paris on Monday

A woman reads "Le Monde" with the headline is "(Dominique Strauss-Kahn) DSK's scandal: a earthquake for the euro, the IMF and the left-wing", in Paris on Monday   | Photo Credit: Thibault Camus

IMF chief faces another sexual assault case in France

France on Monday woke up to shocking pictures of the usually well-groomed and dapper IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn being led away, handcuffed, unshaven, tie-less and grim faced from the Harlem police lock-up where he spent the night for DNA tests that will ultimately prove or disprove his case. Mr. Strauss-Kahn, popularly referred to as DSK in France, has been charged with attempted rape, unlawful imprisonment following accusations by a hotel chambermaid in New York that he sexually assaulted her.

More than the handcuffs or that he was on a grubby New York street accompanied by police officers rather than in the gilded salons of high finance surrounded with bankers and courtiers, it was the look of utter devastation on Mr. Strauss-Kahn's face that so shattered his countrymen.

Socialist leader Manuel Valls said: “I've never seen anything like this in my thirty years in politics. Never have I felt so shaken. He is a longtime friend and the pictures I saw this morning were of an unbearable cruelty that brought tears to my eyes.”

Eva Joly, a former judge who investigated Mr. Strauss-Kahn for corruption and declared him innocent said: “Justice in the U.S. is much harsher [than] in France, especially for sex offences. Little attention appears to be paid to the presumption of innocence. If you are charged, in the eyes of most you are as good as guilty. If found guilty DSK could receive a prison sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years.”

Increasingly theories of entrapment and a deliberate frame-up are gaining ground in France. Canal Plus, a TV station generally sympathetic to leftwing causes, revealed that the first person to break the news a full hour before mainstream media knew of what happened on Saturday afternoon was Jonathan Pinet, a student close to Mr. Sarkozy's UMP Party who had been tipped off by a friend working at the hotel.

Christne Boutin, a practising Catholic and leader of the Christian Democratic party in France, said: “He fell into a trap. This could have been set up by the French right, by the French Left or by the IMF. Perhaps they wanted to decapitate the IMF, since DSK was keen to break the stranglehold of the West on these institutions.”

Mr. Strauss-Kahn was reportedly wary of the dangers that awaited him, suspicious of his security detail and the persons sent to keep him safe. He also had an uncanny intuition about what could lead to his downfall. The daily Liberation in an article published on Monday describes and interview it conducted with him on April 28, 2011. “He described the difficulties of the electoral campaign to come as: ‘Money, women and my Jewishness'. I can imagine a scenario like in a bad thriller — an underground parking where a woman, who's been paid 500,000 euros accuses me of having raped her…” However, other voices have added to the charges weighing against him. Jean Quatremer, a respected journalist working for the daily Liberation wrote in his blog in 2007 when DSK was first appointed as IMF chief that the new appointee would do well to keep his sexual appetites in check. “I have witnessed Strauss-Kahn importunating female journalists time and time again, sometimes in a manner so crass and gross it could only be called sexual harassment,” he told The Hindu. “When I wrote that in my blog, I got a call from one of his directors of communications asking me to withdraw the story. I refused and told them they could take me to court. They did no such thing because any court action would have laid bare other incidents of a similar nature.”

In the wake of the charges filed in New York, a young French journalist called Tristane Banon has decided to lodge a complaint. On a TV show in 2007 she had recounted how he harassed her but Mr. Strauss-Kahn's name was concealed with a blip when the programme was aired. “She was persuaded by her mother not to lodge a complaint then. But now she feels she will get a fair hearing,” her lawyer David Koubbi told reporters.

French society is sharply polarised about Mr. Strauss-Khan's guilt or innocence.



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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 1:19:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/french-society-polarised-on-strausskhan/article2023984.ece

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