Maid set to testify against IMF chief in sex case

May 18, 2011 12:00 am

, NEW YORK, May 18 – The maid who accused IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault will testify against him, rejecting any notion that she consented to sex in a New York hotel, her lawyer said on Wednesday.

"There is nothing consensual about what took place in that hotel room," lawyer Jeff Shapiro told NBC television.

"I think that when the jury hears her testimony and sees her in person, and finally she can come public with this and tell her story, I think that (they will find) their claims of consensual sex or encounters are not true."

The 32-year-old woman, a single mother who Shapiro says is living through an extraordinary "trauma," alleges Strauss-Kahn groped and mauled her in his hotel suite, and forcibly tried to have oral sex.

One of the world\’s most powerful men, Strauss-Kahn has denied seven counts of alleged sexual assault and attempted rape, as well as unlawful imprisonment.

He was arrested in the wake of Saturday\’s alleged assault in the luxury Sofitel hotel, after being escorted from an Air France flight just minutes before take-off from John F. Kennedy airport.

A judge on Monday refused him bail deeming him a flight risk, and Strauss-Kahn, who is under suicide watch in New York City\’s notorious Rikers Island jail, faces a long prison sentence if convicted.

But his lawyers insist he did not try to flee the country as alleged, and that he went out to lunch immediately after the alleged assault.

Lawyer Benjamin Brafman told Monday\’s hearing the evidence "will not be consistent with a forcible encounter," and according to New York Post tabloid a "source close to the defence" said "there may well have been consent."

Prosecutors also say they have physical evidence, including a doctor\’s examination of the 32-year-old victim, taken immediately after the incident which indicates attempted rape.

The scandal has thrown the French political scene into disarray, as Strauss-Kahn had been seen as a strong contender to defeat President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year\’s elections.

It also comes at a critical time for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is steering delicate negotiations to help overcome the eurozone debt crisis.

Photographed handcuffed leaving a police cell, and humiliated as he slumped on a court bench along with petty criminals and down-and-outs, the 62-year-old IMF boss is under growing pressure to quit.

A grand jury is due to convene in the coming days to decide whether there is enough evidence in the accusations to proceed to trial.

Such proceedings are secret, and the Manhattan District Attorney\’s office would not comment, although a new court hearing has been set for Friday.

"He\’s obviously not in the position to run the IMF," US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in his first public comments on the case late Tuesday.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said he did not think the scandal would damage the world body, one of the pillars of the global financial system.

"The IMF is a rather solid body… I don\’t see damage coming out of that," Bildt told reporters.

But British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Strauss-Kahn was in a "very difficult position," and that this must not interfere with the IMF\’s work.

The IMF chief\’s personal lawyer, William Taylor, Wednesday declined to comment on Strauss-Kahn\’s future plans, telling AFP: "I think in the end it will be resolved."

The IMF is planning ahead however, with acting chief John Lipsky to attend next week\’s Group of Eight summit in Strauss-Kahn\’s place.

The French government\’s spokesman Francois Baroin told reporters Lipsky would represent the International Monetary Fund at the top-level summit in Deauville, northwestern France, on May 26 and 27.

In France, Strauss-Kahn continues to enjoy some support, including from conspiracy theorists who claim he was set up. A poll said Wednesday that 57 percent of French people believe he is the "victim of a plot."

"France is flummoxed," political scientist Stephane Rozes told AFP. The French have been forced to decide whether there was some kind of behind-the-scenes plot or if their former finance minister is mentally unwell.

"Both ideas are unsettling," Rozes said, adding that, while a conspiracy appeared "incredible," madness would be "shocking."

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