Strauss-Kahn To Face New Sex Charges In France

Just as pressure on former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is easing in New York, it is ramping up in Paris. A young novelist, who says Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during an interview in 2003, is officially bringing charges against him. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers announced he will counter-sue for defamation of character.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the U.S. has been severely weakened to the point where charges may be dropped all together. In France, his legal problems maybe be just beginning.

A young French woman who says Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her eight years ago plans to bring charges against him today.

Eleanor Beardsley sends this report.

(Soundbite of television newscast) (French spoken)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: A new element has exploded onto the scene in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair, a saga that has gripped France for the last two months. Thirty-two year author, Tristane Banon, says Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2003 when she went to his apartment for an interview.

She is bringing charges against the former IMF head today, because Banon says she can no longer bear the weight of keeping her ordeal secret. Banon's lawyer said she was encouraged to come forward after Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York, but that her case is entirely separate from the New York incident.

UNKNOWN MAN (Through Translator): Her account of what happened is very serious and full of violence. We will file this case with the Paris prosecutor today, and if it doesn't go to trial, that will speak volumes about the French justice system.

BEARDSLEY: In a statement from New York, Strauss-Kahn immediately dismissed Banon's account as imaginary. His lawyers filed a counter-suit for slander.

Many are wondering why Banon would wait eight years to bring the charges. In an online interview with French news magazine, L'Express, that came out overnight, Banon says she was afraid that no one would take her seriously against such a powerful man, and that she would be fed to the wolves.

Banon's mother, Anne Mansouret, also convinced her not to file charges saying it would wreck her writing career. Speaking on television, Mansouret says that was a big mistake.

Ms. ANNE MANSOURET (Through Translator): I advised not to because she was very young at the time, and also, she was friends with Strauss-Kahn's youngest daughter. And this would have wrecked relations between our families.

BEARDSLEY: But Banon's story was already known in certain circles.

(Soundbite of French language)

BEARDSLEY: In 2007 she took part in a TV reality show that took place around a Paris dinner table. Banon recounted what had happened in Strauss-Kahn's apartment.

Ms. TRISTANE BANON (French spoken).

BEARDSLEY: He tried to rip off my jeans. We literally fought on the floor. I was kicking him, said Banon, who described Strauss-Kahn as a rutting chimpanzee. Strauss-Kahn's name was bleeped at the time, but his identity has since been revealed and millions of people have watched the show and Banon's account on the internet.

(Soundbite of French language)

BEARDSLEY: Strauss-Kahn's allies have been defending on the airwaves saying Banon must have been pushed to make the charges by his political foes.

Some will certainly consider her an opportunist, but others will believe her, says long-time television journalist, Jean Marc Illouz. What's important says Illouz is that the genie is out of the bottle.

Mr. Jean-Marc Illouz (Journalist): Whatever the merits of the cases in New York and Paris; in France, for the first time there has been a public debate on the role, on the behavior of powerful men - not only in politics - but very often more modestly in the workplace. The public debate has taken place, things are changed.

BEARDSLEY: Attempted rape carries as 15-year prison term in France, though it will be hard to prove, but analysts say the mere existence of the case will make Strauss-Kahn's return to France very uncomfortable.

For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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