French writer to file assault complaint against Strauss-Kahn

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A French writer is bringing legal action against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, alleging he sexually assaulted her in 2002, her lawyer said Monday, after the IMF chief's arrest in New York on a similar charge.

Novelist and journalist Tristane Banon, 31, previously made the allegation against the leading politician on television in 2007, branding him a "rutting chimpanzee", but she had not made a formal complaint to authorities.

"We're planning to make a complaint. I am working with her," lawyer David Koubbi said, adding that his client had previously been persuaded not to take action by her mother, a regional councillor in Strauss-Kahn's Socialist Party.

Strauss-Kahn was arrested on Saturday in New York after a chambermaid who had been cleaning his 3,000-dollar-per-night hotel suite alleged that he had come out of the bathroom naked and sexually assaulted her.

The Socialist heavyweight, who had been expected to step down from the International Monetary Fund in order to run against France's Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential election, appeared in a New York court on Monday.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges but was refused bail and remanded in custody until a new hearing on Friday. By then he could also be facing a parallel investigation in his homeland into the earlier alleged assault.

In February 2007, Banon was a guest on a television chat show and recounted how a senior politician had lured her to a virtually empty apartment in the guise of agreeing to give an interview and then assaulted her.

In her comments she appeared happy to identify the politician, but his name was bleeped out of the broadcast version. A year later Banon confirmed to the AgoraVox website that she was referring to Strauss-Kahn.

"I put down the recorder straight away to record him. He wanted to hold my hand while he replied, because he told me 'I wouldn't be able to manage unless you hold my hand'," she alleged in the Paris Premiere broadcast.

"Then the hand went to my arm, then a bit further, so I stopped straight away," she explained. "It finished very violently -- as I told him clearly 'No, No!' -- and we finished up fighting on the floor.

"There wasn't just a couple of blows. I kicked him, and he tried to unclip my bra, to open my jeans," Banon alleged, adding that she eventually made her escape and considered pressing charges before abandoning the idea.

"I didn't want to be for the rest of my days the girl who had had a problem with a politician," she said.

Banon's mother, Socialist politician and blogger Anne Mansouret, confirmed to the news website Rue89 that she had advised her daughter at the time not to make a formal complaint, for fear of hurting her career in journalism.

"Tristane was depressed. Her professional life had been disrupted by this business. She has been under pressure for eight years, it's genuine harassment," she said, accusing Strauss-Kahn's supporters of persecution.

"Back in 2002, Socialist friends thought that Tristane should make a complaint, but I persuaded her not to. I didn't want her to be 'the girl who ...'. She was just starting out in journalism," she told Rue89.

Koubbi added: "Tristane felt under pressure from these events. She was alone. It is terrifying to be faced with someone like Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his circle."

Any French inquiry into Strauss-Kahn's conduct will be carried out under different conditions from those in New York, where if he persists with a "not guilty" plea he will be tried before a jury of citizens.

In France, an examining magistrate must consider evidence for and against the charge and conduct a closed-door inquiry before deciding whether to bring the evidence in front of a panel of judges.

Strauss-Kahn's aides and one of his lawyers, Jean Veil, did not respond to requests to comment.

© 2011 AFP

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