x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Strauss-Kahn 'was in restaurant with daughter at time of alleged attack'

Lawyers for the IMF chief have proof he was at a restaurant having lunch with his daughter when he was alleged to be sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York, a radio station in France has reported.

NEW YORK // Lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn have proof that the IMF chief was at a restaurant having lunch with his daughter when he was alleged to be sexually assaulting a hotel maid, France's RMC radio reported yesterday.

RMC said the lawyers had pieced together Mr Strauss-Kahn's movements and found that he left the hotel at midday, after paying his bill and handing in his key, then went to eat with his daughter and took a taxi to the airport.

The schedule meant he had already left the hotel at the time the maid alleged he chased her down a corridor, forced her into a room and assaulted her, RMC reported on its website, adding that the lawyers had material evidence and witnesses.

Mr Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a married father of four whose reputation with women earned him the nickname "the great seducer", appeared in court in Manhattan yesterday over the alleged attack on a maid who went into his penthouse suite at a hotel near Times Square to clean it.

He was told by the judge he must remain jailed at least until his next court hearing for attempted rape, sex abuse, a criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. The top count is punishable by five to 25 years in prison.

Manhattan prosecutors asked the judge to hold Mr Strauss-Kahn without bail, saying his position as IMF head had taken him out of the country previously and that he was wealthy and does not live in New York.

"He has almost no incentive to stay in this country and every incentive to leave," assistant district attorney John McConnell said. "If he went to France, we would have no legal mechanism to guarantee his return to this country."

Defense attorneys had suggested bail be set at $1 million and promised the IMF managing director would remain in New York City.

Mr Strauss-Kahn was taken into custody on Saturday and spent more than 24 hours inside a Harlem precinct, where police say the maid identified him from a lineup, then headed to a hospital for a "forensic examination" requested by prosecutors to obtain more evidence, defence lawyer William Taylor said. Mr Strauss-Kahn was taken to a Manhattan court early yesterday.

His defence attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said the IMF managing director "intends to vigorously defends these charges and he denies any wrongdoing".

In France yesterday, a lawyer for a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by Mr Strauss-Kahn nine years ago said she now wants to file a legal complaint.

Lawyer David Koubbi told RTL radio yesterday that his client, Tristane Banon, did not file suit about the alleged 2002 assault earlier because she was pressured not to. He said she was dissuaded by her own mother, a regional Socialist official.

Mr Koubbi told RTL he is likely to file suit for Ms Banon now because "she knows she'll be heard and she knows she'll be taken seriously".

A member of France's Socialist party, Mr Strauss-Kahn was widely considered the strongest potential challenger next year to President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose political fortunes have been flagging.

French viewers were shocked yesterday by the images of the handcuffed Mr Strauss-Kahn escorted and ducking stone-faced into a police car. In France, public figures are usually shielded from view in such circumstances.

Fellow Socialists increasingly defended Mr Strauss-Kahn, citing contradictions in the investigation, and pledged to stick to the campaign calendar.

"His close friends cannot believe that he is guilty," said Socialist politician and friend Jean Christophe Cambadelis.

Mr Strauss-Kahn, 62, was arrested less than four hours after the alleged assault, plucked from first class on a Paris-bound Air France flight that was just about to leave the gate at John F Kennedy International Airport.

He was alone when he checked into the luxury Sofitel hotel on Friday afternoon, police said. The 32-year-old maid told authorities that when she entered his $3,000-a-night suite early Saturday afternoon, she thought it was unoccupied. Instead, Mr Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he sexually assaulted her, a New York Police Department spokesman said.

The woman told police she fought him off, but then he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again, escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said.

Mr Strauss-Kahn was gone by the time detectives arrived moments later. He left his mobile phone behind. The NYPD discovered he was at JFK and contacted officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. Port Authority police officers arrested him.

Mr Strauss-Kahn was arrested on charges of a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. Authorities were looking for any forensic evidence and DNA.

Yesterday a political rival said Mr Strauss-Kahn had engaged in a long-term pattern of sexual misconduct. Without providing proof, the French politician Michel Debre alleged that Mr Strauss-Kahn had victimised several maids at the Sofitel hotel.

*Associated Press with additional reporting by Reuters