Strauss-Kahn confronted by rape bid accuser

AFP , Thursday 29 Sep 2011

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn meets the French writer who accused him of a rape attempt at a Paris police station

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 2nd right, leaves a police station after a one-on-one meeting with writer, Tristane Banon, who accuses him of attempted rape, in Paris, France, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011.(Photo:AP)

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn had a two-hour face-to-face confrontation at a Paris police station on Thursday with the French writer who accuses him of a 2003 rape attempt.

The encounter between Tristane Banon, 32, and Strauss-Kahn, 62, took place without lawyers present although police were there. One of Strauss-Kahn's lawyers said that both people had stuck to their version of what happened.

"DSK stuck to his version of events, as did she," lawyer Henri Leclerc said, using the politician's initials by which he is better known in France.

Asked whether his client had apologised, Leclerc said: "He has nothing to apologise for."

Banon, who is to appear on French primetime television on Thursday evening, refused to comment on the encounter when asked by AFP.

Police are probing Banon's allegation that the former French presidential hopeful locked her in a bare Paris flat in 2003 and assaulted her, with prosecutors then to decide whether to press charges.

Such an encounter is common in French justice when two people in a case give different versions of events.

The meeting could bring investigations to a close, after which the prosecutor could decide that there's no case, or that the alleged crime happened too long ago or that a prosecution is warranted.

Banon's complaint is for attempted rape rather than sexual assault or harassment, and if the prosecutor decides to downgrade the charge Strauss-Kahn would be protected by a statute of limitations on the lesser crimes.

Police have already interviewed around 20 witnesses in the case, including Socialist leader and presidential hopeful Francois Hollande.

Banon first made her allegations public on television in 2007, but only brought them to magistrates after a chambermaid at an upscale New York hotel accused Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault in May.

The New York prosecutor's case collapsed last month after doubts emerged over the credibility of his accuser, Guinean immigrant Nafissatou Diallo, who is still seeking damages from a US civil court.

Banon, who said on Saturday that she was afraid of meeting Strauss-Kahn, accuses Strauss-Kahn of wrestling with her "like a rutting chimpanzee" after luring her into an unfurnished Paris flat on the pretext of offering her an interview for a book she was writing.

Strauss-Kahn has admitted making "an advance" on Banon, but denies any use of violence and has lodged a lawsuit for slander against the writer over her claim.

She has said that she will bring a civil suit if there is no criminal prosecution.

Banon told a television interviewer last week that she was keen to confront her alleged abuser in front of police.

"I want him in front of me so he can look into my eyes and say to my face that I imagined it," Banon said in the interview.

Speaking at a rally organised by women's rights groups and attended by around 100 supporters on Saturday, Banon said she hoped her allegations would ultimately be assessed by a court.

"I am quite happy to see that justice is following its course," she said.

Strauss-Kahn is trying to get the New York civil case dismissed, claiming diplomatic immunity despite having already stood down from the International Monetary Fund when Diallo brought her case in August.

Strauss-Kahn has accused Diallo of imperilling his efforts, at the helm of the IMF, to rescue the world economy at a crucial time after the financial crisis.

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