Police quiz Strauss-Kahn accuser in French sex case

11th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

French police Monday questioned a French writer over her claim that former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2003, in a case that could wreck his hopes of a political return.

Judicial officials said detectives from the Paris violent crimes squad interviewed Tristane Banon, 32, who in 2007 publicly accused Strauss-Kahn of trying to force himself on her "like a rutting chimpanzee".

Paris police have been asked by investigating magistrates to look into her formal complaint lodged last week against the ex-head of the International Monetary Fund, who is also accused of sex crimes in New York.

Prosecutors will then decide whether or not to charge the 62-year-old, who was formerly the French opposition Socialists best hope to beat Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential election.

Banon -- the god-daughter of Strauss-Kahn's second wife, Brigitte Guillemette -- accuses him of assaulting her in a Paris flat in 2003 as she interviewed him for a book she was writing.

Strauss-Kahn has dismissed as "imaginary" the allegations, which threaten to overwhelm resurgent hopes that he could bounce back politically after being arrested in New York, charged with trying to rape a hotel maid.

Those hopes revived this month when the US case against Strauss-Kahn appeared to be in trouble amid doubts over the maid's credibility.

His lawyers are planning to sue Banon for defamation over the allegation, which she first made on television back in 2007.

In that broadcast, she accused Strauss-Kahn of trying to force himself on her, but said she was persuaded at the time that no-one would take her word against the powerful politician's if she sued.

The channel that aired those comments, Paris Premiere, said it will broadcast the show again on Wednesday. Strauss-Kahn's name was bleeped out but Banon confirmed in a separate interview she was referring to him.

Banon's lawyer David Koubbi said last week he had material evidence and witnesses to back her allegations.

In an interview published last week online by L'Express magazine, she repeated her account of the alleged attack, saying Strauss-Kahn had "his hands in my pants after he ripped off my jeans and bra."

She added: "Eight years ago when I talked about bringing a complaint, everyone had me believe that it would lead nowhere. In these matters it is one person's word against another."

When US media reported that prosecutors were poised to drop the charges, she said, "seeing Strauss-Kahn freed then afterwards dining in a fancy restaurant with friends, that makes me sick."

Banon's legal action prompted awkward questions for Socialists whom Banon says knew about her alleged ordeal at the time and did nothing.

She said former Socialist Party chief Francois Hollande, currently polling as the leading Socialist presidential candidate, was aware of the accusations, but he has insisted he had "no detailed knowledge" of the alleged incident.

Banon's mother, Socialist politician Anne Mansouret, confirmed she had advised her at the time not to make a formal complaint for fear of hurting her daughter's career in journalism.

Strauss-Kahn's Socialist allies branded Banon an opportunist.

"Clearly certain people are not happy about the return of Dominique Strauss-Kahn," Socialist MP Jean-Marie Le Guen told reporters last week.

Banon turned up for questioning by police on Monday morning and left in the early afternoon, said judicial officials who asked not to be named. They and people close to Banon gave no further details.

© 2011 AFP

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