Maid to testify against IMF chief in sex case

18th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The maid who accused IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault will testify against him Wednesday, rejecting any notion that she willingly had sex in a New York hotel, her lawyer said.

"There is nothing consensual about what took place in that hotel room," lawyer Jeff Shapiro told NBC television, adding he believed she would appear Wednesday before a grand jury.

"I think that when the jury hears her testimony and sees her in person, and finally she can come public with this and tell her story, I think that (they will find) their claims of consensual sex or encounters are not true."

The 32-year-old woman, a single mother originally from Guinea, alleges Strauss-Kahn groped and mauled her in his suite in the Sofitel hotel in New York, and forcibly tried to have oral sex with her.

One of the world's most powerful men, Strauss-Kahn has denied seven counts of alleged sexual assault and attempted rape, as well as unlawful imprisonment.

But he was refused bail on Monday and is under suicide watch in New York City's notorious Rikers Island jail awaiting his next hearing on Friday.

The IMF boss and veteran French politician is the most high-profile prisoner they have ever housed in the gritty complex, Norman Seabrook, president of the correction officers union, told AFP.

"We've never had to deal with someone of this level," Seabrook said. "This is a very, very high profile person... a presidential candidate of a major country that is an ally of the United States."

The man used to a jet-setting lifestyle, flying first class and living it up in luxury hotels, is now confined to a tiny cell in an area normally reserved for inmates with contagious diseases, a prison source said.

The IMF boss has had to trade his sharp suits for a grey jumpsuit specially designed to minimize risks, and has to wear slip-on shoes with no laces.

Such tough measures were ordered so that "we don't put him in any danger. We do not allow any inmates to come into contact with him. (We) protect him from anyone who may want to make a name for themselves, take a swing at him," Seabrook said.

And when Strauss-Kahn heads to court on Friday to hear if a grand jury has ruled whether there is enough evidence to indict him, he will be placed under extraordinarily tight security.

"Every time he travels to court he will be escorted by our emergency services unit. He will be handcuffed, shackled, he will be transported in a vehicle escorted by several highly trained officers," Seabrook said.

The maid is "scared, incredulous" and "doesn't know what her future will bring," her lawyer Shapiro said, but she was still willing to help build a case.

"She feels she can't go home. She feels she's been excised from her life," he said, adding she was now being held "in a safe place" with her 15-year-old daughter.

Prosecutors say they have physical evidence, including a doctor's examination, taken immediately after the incident which indicates attempted rape.

But Strauss-Kahn's lawyers insist he did not try to flee the country as alleged, and that after he left his hotel suite he went out to lunch, suggesting he was not trying to flee a crime scene.

Lawyer Benjamin Brafman told Monday's hearing the evidence "will not be consistent with a forcible encounter," and according to the New York Post tabloid a source close to the defense said "there may well have been consent."

The scandal has thrown the French political scene into disarray, as Strauss-Kahn had been seen as a strong contender to defeat President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's elections.

It also comes at a critical time for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is steering delicate negotiations to help overcome the eurozone debt crisis.

"He's obviously not in the position to run the IMF," US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said late Tuesday.

And British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Strauss-Kahn was in a "very difficult position," and that this must not interfere with the IMF's work.

The IMF chief's personal lawyer, William Taylor, Wednesday declined to comment on Strauss-Kahn's future plans, telling AFP: "I think in the end it will be resolved."

And in France, Strauss-Kahn continues to enjoy support, including from conspiracy theorists who claim he was set up. A poll said Wednesday that 57 percent of French people believe he is the "victim of a plot."

© 2011 AFP

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