Strauss-Kahn’s French accuser speaks out

Tristane Banon alleges that Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2003.

Paris: The French woman who alleges that Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2003 said on Wednesday she finally took legal action because the New York case against the former IMF chief reawakened painful memories.

"I thought you could forget, put things in a box, put it away and in fact this isn`t possible," Tristane Banon said on France-2 TV.

It was the first TV interview the 32-year-old has given since filing a criminal complaint against Strauss-Kahn on July 05, just as a New York judge lifted his USD 6 million bail in the sexual assault case there. That decision came after New York prosecutors cast down on the credibility of the victim who had lied about her past.

The Guinean immigrant alleges Strauss-Kahn, 62, attacked her on May 14 in his suite at the Manhattan Sofitel. He denies any wrongdoing.

That case, and now the one brought by Banon, put Strauss-Kahn`s political career on hold, just as his Socialist Party hoped to see him as their candidate in next year`s French presidential race. The deadline for candidacies for the primary was on Wednesday.

Banon, 32, claims Strauss-Kahn attacked her in an empty apartment during an interview she was conducting for a book.

Strauss-Kahn`s French attorneys have filed a complaint for slander against Banon. She claimed on Wednesday that Strauss-Kahn has a faulty memory. Her lawyer, David Koubbi, has said he has evidence, including text messages related to the incident.

A preliminary investigation for attempted rape was launched, but it was not immediately known whether her complaint would survive the scrutiny of investigators. The case could be dropped or pursued. There is a three-year statute of limitations for sexual assault, a misdemeanour in France, but 10 years for attempted rape.

Banon`s interview was aired after police questioned her mother as part of the probe into the case. Banon was questioned at length on Monday.

The woman repeated that she had not filed a complaint at the time because she had been dissuaded — by her mother, a Socialist Party politician, by journalists and legal counsellors.

"It’s because of the Sofitel incident that this problem is posed (for me) once again ...," she said. "Once more, I`m faced with this incident. It made me think of it again." But now, she said, she has a lawyer who "will see this to the end with me”.

She denied claims by some here that she was seeking publicity or had been manipulated.

Banon`s mother, Anne Mansouret, said in an interview on Wednesday that she had dissuaded her daughter from taking action because "I thought at the time my daughter had more to lose than to gain”.

"What I underestimated ... is that this would have such a considerable impact on her behaviour, on her life," she said.

Mansouret said she met for more than six hours with police, but disclosed nothing.

In Washington, meanwhile, a lead lawyer for Strauss-Kahn said at a news conference exclusively for French-speaking reporters that there was no real significance to be read into the postponing of his client`s next court date, which was moved from July 18 to August 01.

The July 18 date was not an audience during which either his team or the prosecution expected to tell the judge "anything definitive”, William W Taylor III was heard saying as France-2 aired a portion of the news conference.

He also reiterated that Strauss-Kahn will not plead guilty to any of the charges he faces.

It was not clear whether the session was called to prep French reporters on the vastly different US justice system or aimed at assuring they do not somehow damage Strauss-Kahn`s case in the public eye.

Bureau Report

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