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IMF Chief In Court To Face Sex Charges


Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves the New York Police Department in Harlem on May 15.
A New York City judge has said that International Monetary Fund (IMF) director Dominique Strauss-Kahn must remain in prison at least until his next court hearing for attempted rape and other charges.

Judge Melissa Jackson said on May 16 that Strauss-Kahn should be remanded because he was "a flight risk."

Strauss-Kahn is accused of attacking a maid at a luxury hotel in Manhattan on Saturday. He has been charged with 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.

His attorneys had suggested that prosecutors set $1 million bail and promised the IMF managing director would remain in New York City.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to hold Strauss-Kahn without bail.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said his client denies any wrongdoing.

Strauss-Kahn is due to reappear in court on May 20.

Pulled Off A Plane Minutes Before Takeoff

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers say he agreed to undergo a forensic medical examination related to the case on May 14, in a scandal that has rocked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and likely annihilated Strauss-Kahn's ambitions to become France's president next year.

The 62-year-old is accused of pouncing on the maid in his suite at the elegant Sofitel hotel in central New York before chasing her naked down a hall, pulling her back into the bathroom, and sexually assaulting her.

The woman later identified him from a police lineup.

Strauss-Kahn, who was pulled off a plane to Paris on May 15 minutes before takeoff, faces charges of a criminal sexual act, unlawful imprisonment, and attempted rape that could land him behind bars for up to 20 years.

Strauss-Kahn has hired high-profile lawyer Benjamin Brafman, who successfully defended pop star Michael Jackson against child-molestation charges, to represent him.

"He intends to vigorously defend these charges and denies any wrongdoing," Brafman said.

Politique De L'Autruche

The scandal is a huge embarrassment for the IMF, which had been praised under Strauss-Kahn's leadership for helping convince leaders to inject billions of dollars into the world economy during the global financial crisis and swiftly issuing bailouts loans for Iceland, Hungary, Greece, Ireland, and Portugal.

The IMF may also face criticism for having been too soft on Strauss-Kahn, who was forced to apologize in 2008 for "an error of judgment" after an affair with a female IMF economist who was his subordinate.

Strauss-Kahn's deputy, John Lipsky of the United States, has been appointed as acting managing director.

The IMF chief's bombshell arrest could complicate critical talks on whether to extend Greece's EU-IMF loan.

The European Commission said on May 16 that Strauss-Kahn's assault case would have no impact on the rescue packages for eurozone countries in trouble.

But RFE/RL's correspondent in Brussels, Rikard Jozwiak, called it "hard timing" and said the assault charges cast a long shadow on a meeting of EU finance ministers. Strauss-Kahn had been due to attend the May 16-17 meeting.

The correspondent said likely items on the agenda were financial restructuring for Greece and the specifics of a bailout for Portugal.

In France, the charges have shocked the nation and plunged the opposition Socialist Party into turmoil.

Strauss-Kahn's troubles deepened today when a lawyer said his client, a French writer named Tristane Banon, might file a legal complaint against him over an alleged sexual assault that she says took place in 2002 when she went to interview him in an empty apartment.

Often referred to by his initials DSK, Strauss-Kahn was widely admired in France for his charisma and his gleaming performance as head of the IMF.

Clear Favorite

Although he had not yet officially announced his Socialist candidacy in the 2012 French presidential elections, Strauss-Kahn was seen as a clear favorite and had been topping opinion polls.

"The French reacted with great stupefaction," Christian Makarian, the managing editor of the French weekly "L'Express," tells RFE/RL. "The case seemed to them, in many respects, almost unbelievable. Without prejudging Strauss-Kahn's defense and the solidity of the three charges brought against him, and without prejudging future developments, I think we can already talk about a huge national shock in public opinion."

Senior Socialist leaders have called for calm and decency, citing the presumption of innocence. The Socialist Party kicks off its primary in July and hopes to win its first presidential election in 24 years.

Strauss-Kahn's wife, high-profile French television journalist Anne Sinclair, said she does not believe the allegations against her husband.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party has, so far, stopped short of condemning Strauss-Kahn, with party head Jean Francois Cope describing the case as a blow to France as a whole.

"In these moments, I have to say that one thinks of the image of France," Cope said. "Because it's true: Imagine this image goes around the world. It's obviously a talking point. But once again, we're all reeling from the important and grave nature of this affair."

Many analysts say Strauss-Kahn's legal woes could provide an expected and much-needed boost for the unpopular Sarkozy.

But Makarian said even Sarkozy could come out somewhat tainted from the scandal.

"Nicolas Sarkozy had personally warned Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in one-to-one talks, of the incredible severity of U.S. laws in certain spheres," Makarian said. "Strauss-Kahn had very consciously pledged to have exemplary behavior. He owed it, particularly since France had lobbied for him on an international level. So this is truly a national collapse."

compiled from agency reports