French Socialists hail demise of Strauss-Kahn case

AP News
Posted: Aug 23, 2011 11:03 AM
French Socialists hail demise of Strauss-Kahn case

France's Socialists are lauding a move by New York prosecutors to drop the attempted rape case against prominent party figure Dominique Strauss-Kahn, after a stormy two months for the ex-IMF chief that upended the French presidential race.

A New York judge is expected to dismiss the United States case Tuesday at the request of prosecutors, who expressed concerns about the credibility of the hotel chambermaid who accused him.

But few expect Strauss-Kahn _ once considered a leading contender for France's top job _ to jump back into politics very soon.

A civil case is still pending in New York, and investigators are probing another attempted rape accusation against him in France. His own political allies and some French voters appeared eager Tuesday to move forward with the presidential campaign and let Strauss-Kahn recover from the last few months in peace.

French Socialist Party chief Martine Aubry called it "an immense relief" that the prosecutors are abandoning the case.

"We were all waiting for this ... for him to finally be able to get out of this nightmare," she said on France-Info radio.

Harlem Desir, who is filling in for Aubry while she seeks the Socialists' presidential nomination, welcomed the "happy outcome" and wished Strauss-Kahn "all my wishes so that he can quickly rebuild his life."

Strauss-Kahn's arrest and images of him handcuffed in a New York courtroom stunned France, and many here questioned the way American prosecutors pursued the French politician. Strauss-Kahn quit as chief of the International Monetary Fund after the accusations by the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, in May, which he denies.

The Socialist Party, which many hoped was ready to overcome years of differences and rally behind Strauss-Kahn, has scrambled for a new candidate who could unseat President Nicolas Sarkozy in April-May elections.

"He will always be stained by this affair, he will always have this, everyone will always make reference to this affair, it will stick to him," said insurance agent Veronique Colle, en route to work in Paris on Tuesday.

Banker Victor Diosi dismissed any notion of Strauss-Kahn returning to the presidential race. "There has been so much talk about what he did that we will now move on. Other candidates will materialize and political life will continue differently in France. ... Maybe he'll have a political future as a minister or something like that if the Socialists win but not as president, not as a candidate in the next elections."

Some commentators noted that the prosecutor didn't clear Strauss-Kahn, just said he didn't have enough of a case to persuade a jury to convict him.

The case "lifted the veil on aspects of his personality, his relations with women, and with money," Le Monde wrote in an editorial Tuesday. "As with Bill Clinton, whose presidency was tarnished by the Monica Lewinsky affair, (Strauss-Kahn) is above all a victim of his own imprudence."

A lawyer for Diallo say she's being treated like a suspect, and that dropping the case against the ex-IMF chief will have a chilling effect on victims of sex crimes.

Douglas Wigdor told reporters in Paris that "is an affront to Ms. Diallo and to all victims who come forward in the future." He said she was treated like a "suspect" in the investigation of the case.

The mother of Strauss-Kahn's French accuser was another of those displeased with the move to drop the New York case. "I am revolted and indignant," Anne Mansouret, a regional Socialist official, told Europe-1 radio.

Her daughter, novelist Tristane Banon, says Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2002 and has filed a new criminal complaint in France. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have called her account "imaginary."

Banon's lawyer, David Koubbi, denounced a "show of self-congratulation from the friends of DSK," referring to the initials by which Strauss-Kahn is widely known in France. He said Banon isn't going to relent in her case.

"She is combative," Koubbi was quoted as saying Tuesday on the website of French daily 20 Minutes. "But she is saddened about what happened to Nafissatou Diallo, because she believes her."

The Associated Press generally doesn't name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they agree to be identified or identify themselves, as Diallo and Banon have done.

"Today, Tristane Banon still wants justice to be done. And we are going to work toward that without the American spectacle," Koubbi said.