Dominique Strauss-Kahn refused bail after appearance in New York court

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

File photograph of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Image: Guillaume Paumier.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, has been refused bail after appearing in court in New York charged with sexually assaulting a chambermaid at a hotel in Manhattan. The decision by the judge to remand him in custody yesterday will likely disrupt emergency talks over the European debt crisis, demolish hopes that he will challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency, and spell the end of his political career.

In court, Strauss-Kahn appeared sombre and tired. The judge agreed with the argument by the prosecution that the French politician was a flight risk after he reportedly tried to flee the country on a passenger jet for Paris. The defence said Strauss-Kahn denied the charges against him and offered $1,000,000 bail and said he would reside in Manhattan with an electronic bracelet, but the judge refused. Afterwards, defence lawyer Benjamin Brafman said: "This battle has just begun."

The politician appeared in court charged with three crimes, including attempted rape, after a chambermaid told detectives she had been sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn in a luxury hotel near Times Square. "The maid described being forcibly attacked, locked in the room and sexually assaulted," a spokesperson for the New York Police Department said. Detectives said the politician was detained in the first class cabin of the passenger plane which was minutes from leaving for Paris. Strauss-Kahn had reportedly fled the hotel "in a hurry" after the attack, leaving a number of personal effects behind.

Prosecutors have last night announced they are investigating claims made by a French author, Tristane Banon, that she was sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn in 2002. At the time, her mother—socialist councillor Anne Mansouret— persuaded her not to press charges against him, but yesterday she told French television that Strauss-Kahn had an "addiction" to "preying" on women, and had "a difficulty in controlling his impulses." The author's lawyer has announced he is planning to file a complaint with Banon to officials about the alleged attack. Kahn can be convicted and sentenced over the alleged attacks on the chambermaid and on Banon because he does not have diplomatic immunity.

Strauss-Kahn was considered a serious contender and was expected to announce his candidacy against Sarkozy this month, but the allegations are expected to destroy the hopes of his supporters, increase infighting among the French left, and leave his political career in tatters. His arrest comes at a critical moment for the IMF, and will likely plunge efforts to stabilise the financial states of struggling eurozone countries into chaos. Strauss-Kahn was meant to discuss the bailouts of Greece and Portugal with European Union financial officials at a meeting in Brussels this week.