French React To Strauss-Kahn Ruling

Correction Aug. 30, 2011

An early audio version of this story incorrectly said that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had been acquitted of the charges against him. In fact those charges were dropped.

A New York judge decided Tuesday to drop all sexual assault charges against the former head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The case was followed closely in France, where Strauss-Kahn had been expected to run for president, until he was accused of attacking a hotel housekeeper. Strauss-Kahn is expected to return to France soon, but his troubles are far from over.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Developments in the case were followed closely today in France, where Dominique Strauss-Kahn had been expected to run for president. He is likely to return to France soon, but Eleanor Beardsley reports that his troubles are far from over.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (French spoken)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: All the cable news networks had special programming to cover Dominique Strauss-Kahn's final appearance before the New York judge. The dropping of all charges of sexual violence against Strauss-Kahn brought quick reaction from his friends and colleagues.

Martine Aubry is former head of the Socialist Party and a presidential candidate.

MARTINE AUBRY: (Through Translator) We are all so relieved. We've been waiting for him to get out of this nightmare. France still needs Dominique, but we need to give him the time to recover and take up his life again.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS BROADCAST)

BEARDSLEY: French television played footage of Strauss-Kahn talking briefly to a hoard of reporters outside his New York apartment. He thanked those who supported him through his nightmare. Strauss-Kahn said he would return home by next week, and was impatient to get back to France. But when he gets here, he'll have more than a welcoming committee to greet him.

DOUGLAS WIGDOR: Good afternoon. My name is Douglas Wigdor.

BEARDSLEY: Douglas Wigdor, one of New York housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo's lawyers, held a press conference in Paris today with his French partner. Both lawyers condemned the charges against Strauss-Kahn being dropped in the face of what they called substantial and compelling evidence. Wigdor said today's decision would have a chilling effect on cases of sexual violence.

WIGDOR: There's no doubt in my mind that future victims will think twice, unfortunately, about coming forward when they are true victims because of something that might be in their past.

BEARDSLEY: Wigdor said he and his partners are aggressively building a civil case against Strauss-Kahn.

WIGDOR: We are still speaking to many women, protecting many of these women's identity, and so I'm not at liberty to tell you how many. All I can tell you is, it's many.

THIBAULT DE MONTBRIAL: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: French lawyer Thibault de Montbrial then spoke about what he called the Strauss-Kahn machine that was operating in France, trying to keep potential witnesses silent. He said he'd just filed a case against a mayor in the Paris suburbs who, he alleged, had tried to hush up a potential witness with a bribe.

And Strauss-Kahn still faces criminal prosecution in France. A young writer, Tristane Banon, says he tried to rape her in 2002. Banon's mother, Anne Mansouret, spoke on French radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF INTERVIEW)

ANNE MANSOURET: (Through Translator) I'm confident that this kind of crime cannot go unpunished. Whatever his power and support networks, I'm not afraid of him.

BEARDSLEY: At an outdoor cafe near the Arc de Triomphe, Didier Legendre(ph) sits reading a newspaper. Although nobody is talking about Strauss-Kahn running for president anymore, Legendre says France still needs him.

DIDIER LEGENDRE: I think people want to listen to him about crisis - about the debts, about the situation of France. Really, people wait for his opinion.

BEARDSLEY: Inside, cafe owner Renee Dupree(ph) is wiping down the zinc counter. She says she's not about to forgive Strauss-Kahn.

RENEE DUPREE: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Personally, I think he should keep his hands to himself, she says. We certainly don't need a man like that as our president.

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

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