Former IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the French writer who has accused him of a 2003 rape attempt, Tristane Banon, arrived at a police station yesterday to be brought face to face.
Banon, 32, arrived by car, followed about half an hour later by the Socialist politician, with a large crowd of photographers awaiting them. Police are probing the allegation before prosecutors decide whether to press charges.
The confrontation between accused and accuser is to take place without lawyers present. Such an encounter is common in French justice when two people in a case give different versions of events.
The meeting could bring investigations to a close, after which the prosecutor could decide that there is no case, that the alleged crime happened too long ago or that a prosecution is warranted.
Banon said on Saturday that she was afraid of meeting the man she says locked her in a bare Paris flat in 2003 and assaulted her.
Police have already interviewed about 20 witnesses in the case, including Socialist leader and presidential hopeful Francois Hollande.
Banon first made her allegations public on television in 2007, but only brought them to magistrates after a chambermaid at an upscale New York hotel accused Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault in May.
The New York prosecutor’s case collapsed last month after doubts emerged over the credibility of his accuser, Guinean immigrant Nafissatou Diallo, who is still seeking damages from a US civil court.
Banon accuses Strauss-Kahn of wrestling with her “like a rutting chimpanzee” after luring her into an unfurnished Paris flat on the pretext of offering her an interview for a book she was writing.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, has admitted making “an advance” on Banon, but denies any use of violence and has lodged a lawsuit for slander against the writer over her claim.
Banon’s complaint is for attempted rape rather than sexual assault or harassment, and if the prosecutor decides to downgrade the charge, Strauss-Kahn would be protected by a statute of limitations on the lesser crimes.
She has said that she would bring a civil suit if there is no criminal prosecution.
Banon told a television interviewer last week that she was keen to confront her alleged abuser in front of police.
“I want him in front of me so he can look into my eyes and say to my face that I imagined it,” Banon said in the interview.
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