After being arrested on Saturday over allegations of serious sexual assault, Dominique Strauss-Khan has made his first public appearance handcuffed and surrounded by policeman. He was taken to an unknown location while waiting for his hearing to start in a Manhattan court later on today.
Mr Strauss-Kahn is alleged to have carried out a brutal attack on a hotel maid in his Sofitel New York Suite. After the alleged incident, the former French minister is said to have left his suite rather suddenly, leaving personal belongings behind. He was later arrested minutes after boarding an Air France flight to Paris. This morning, his lawyers have confirmed that he will plead not-guilty and that he will "vigorously defend these charges and he denies any wrongdoing". The initial hearing was first scheduled on Sunday, but was then pushed back to today as the IMF boss agreed for forensic tests to be carried out. The 62-year-old was kept overnight in a special unit for sexual harassment in New York's Harlem borough. He was yesterday officially charged with a "criminal sexual act, unlawful imprisonment, and attempted rape". If convicted he could face up to 20 years behind bars.
France political landscape turned upside down.
In France, where Strauss-Kahn was expected to announce his intention to step down as IMF chief in order to stand as a potential presidential candidate for the socialist party in the 2012 elections, his arrest was described by Martine Aubry, the head of the French Socialist party (PS)as a 'thunderbolt'. The PS is now said to be meeting today in order to hold 'crisis talks' as Strauss-Kahn had until now been tipped by pollsters as the main political rival of French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Yesterday Francois Baroin, a government spokesperson called for "respect of the judicial process underway under the authority of the U.S and respect for the presumption of innocence. " A more virulent reaction came from Marine Le Pen, the National Front leader who stated that in her opinion Strauss-Kahn had "forfeited his right to lead the French people." She added it was not the first time the IMF chief was caught "womanising "and concluded that Mr Strauss Kahn "is finished. His political career is over". Meanwhile his wife, prominent journalist Anne Sinclair, believes her husband is innocent and said in a statement: "I do not believe for one second the accusations brought against my husband. " The French public is said to have had mixed reactions, while some see the arrest as a public humiliation, on the other hand conspiracy theories are already running wild. Laurent Dubois of the Paris Political Studies Institute described the arrest as "a tsunami". "There is no way that he can recover from this and run for president now".
The greater impacts of DSK's arrest:
While Dominique Straus-Kahn's arrest has had an important impact on the French political landscape, his arrest also has other ramifications. Strauss-Kahn had been praised for his handling of the economic crisis and his role within the IMF since 2007. On Sunday, he was due to meet the German chancellor Angela Markel in Berlin and was then expected to attend an EU finance ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday on bailouts for Portugal and Greece. His deputy John Lipsky has now taken over as an acting managing director. As the former French minister had clearly been seen as playing a key role in the IMF efforts to stabilise the finances of struggling Eurozone member states, his detention is now likely to complicate the process. Greek labour minister Louka Katseli yesterday said; "This adds uncertainty to the prospect of early resolution. The more uncertainty exists in terms of major institutions, the higher the cost for a country like Greece. What is needed are firm decisions [to ensure] financing for the next year. In a bid to play down the impact of the arrest, the IMF has issued a statement indicating that "the IMF has no comment on the case"and that it "remains fully functioning and operational."