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The news that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had been taken into custody by the police at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, on Saturday, shocked not only his supporters but his opponents alike.
The chief of the International Monetary Fund is facing charges of attempted rape, criminal sexual act and unlawful imprisonment of a 32-year-old hotel maid. The maid, who went inside his penthouse suite at a hotel near Times Square to clean it, was able to identify the 62-year-old married father of four out of a line-up. She was then taken to a hospital for a “forensic examination” requested by prosecutors to obtain more evidence in the case, defense lawyer William Taylor said in the report by The Independent.
According to the maid’s account, she entered the suite in the belief that it was unoccupied. The New York Police Department spokesman Paul J. Browne relayed that not only did Mr. Strauss-Kahn emerge from the bathroom naked, but he chased her down a hallway and sexually assaulted her. After breaking free a second time, she escaped and informed hotel staff of what had happened.
When detectives arrived moments later, he had already gone. “It looked like he got out of there in a hurry,” Browne said.
Hugh Schofield of BBC News in Paris explained that the first reaction of many ordinary French people is that ‘this had got to be a put-up job.’ The former French finance minister has recently come to be seen as a realistic potential challenger of Nicolas Sarkozy in the upcoming French presidential elections in 2012. His popularity and reputation as an excellent politician has garnered him a lot of admiration and credibility on the political scene but the arrest is threatening to dissolve his hopes for candidacy. The long-divided Socialists are now thrown into revived turmoil over who they can turn to for credible representation in the election, The Independent reported. According to the paper, even some of Mr Strauss-Kahn’s adversaries were stunned.
“It’s totally hallucinating. If it is true, this would be a historic moment, but in the negative sense, for French political life,” said Dominique Paille, a political rival to Strauss-Kahn on the center right, on BFM television. Still, he urged, “I hope that everyone respects the presumption of innocence. I cannot manage to believe this affair.”
The IMF chief’s wife, Anne Sinclair, has expressed staunch support. “I do not believe for one second the accusations brought against my husband. I have no doubt his innocence will be established.” However, the BBC could reveal that Mr Strauss-Kahn goes under the nicknamed ‘Chaud Lapin’ (literally Hot Rabbit) due to his reputation as a ladies’ man. An affair with a Hungarian economist have before threatened to derail his career.
Speaking outside the court in Manhattan on Monday, Mr Taylor told reporters that Mr Strauss-Kahn had “willingly consented to a scientific and forensic examination.” A second lawyer informed that his client “intends to vigorously defend these charges and he denies any wrongdoing.”
Given the former French minister’s expected intentions of running for president, and his predicted favorable odds, Paris’ regional councillor Michelle Sabban told AFP, “I am convinced it is an international conspiracy [...] This is a new form of political assassination.”
Strauss-Kahn was supposed to attend a meeting in Berlin on Sunday in connection with the financial bailout of Portugal and Greece. Especially the later was of grave importance as the IMF is responsible for one-third of Greece’s existing loan package, according to the Independent. His presence was going to underline the gravity of the crisis. When Asian markets opened on Monday, the Euro fell half a cent to $1.4063 which reflects the concern that the arrest could affect the bailout plans.
Photo provided by International Monetary Fund