Speculation grows over Strauss-Kahn comeback

Talk turns to revival of bid for French presidency as rape case against ex-IMF chief weakens.


France has been reacting to news of the release from house arrest of its politician and former managing director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, with speculation he could revive his bid for the presidency after cracks in a rape case against him emerged.

Strauss-Kahn, who was released on Friday, had been under house arrest in New York for a little more than five weeks after a 32-year-old hotel chambermaid accused him of raping her.

He denies the charges and prosecutors freed him after it emerged that the chambermaid, who has remained anonymous since Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, had lied to the jury.

“This is an incredible sudden transformation,” Jerome Klein, a businessman, said of Strauss-Kahn’s release.

“We have gone from a phase in which everything was on the side of the accuser and now it seems that everything has turned around with an astonishing speed.”

But Strauss-Kahn, who dined at a Manhattan resturant to celebrate his release, is not allowed to leave the US yet as the case is pending, although he is free to travel within the country.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Paris, said one official from Strauss Kahn’s political party called his release a “decisive step in establishing the truth”.

Another official said it was “a moment of intense relief for Mr Strauss-Kahn and his family and also for his party”.

“There’s a big question now about a possible political rehabilitation for Strauss-Kahn if, in fact, his name is cleared and is able to return to France,” our correspondent said.

No freed unconditionally

Strauss-Kahn still has hurdles to jump over as he was not freed unconditionally.

“It is still a long way off for Mr Strauss-Kahn … the charges are still being pursued,” Al Jazeera’s Rowland said.

Strauss-Kahn’s arrest upended French politics and appeared to dash his ambitions for France’s top job.

Though he had not formally declared his candidacy in next year’s elections, polls had suggested for months that he would beat Nicolas Sarkozy, the sitting president.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland reports from Paris on the French reaction to the new twist in the rape case against Strauss-Kahn

There was speculation that the Socialist Party’s primary election to choose a candidate might be delayed.

The deadline for Socialists to declare candidacy for the party’s presidential primary is July 13 and the primary vote is scheduled for October.

“I have asked my colleagues if we can have a pause of decency in the primary process,” Michele Sabban, a Socialist politician who has long known Strauss-Kahn, said on BFM TV after his court appearance, which was covered in special reports on a handful of TV stations. 

Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as head of the IMF after his arrest, had been confined for weeks to a ritzy Manhattan loft on $6m in cash and bond.

The hotel maid accused Strauss-Kahn of chasing her through his luxury suite in May, trying to disrobe her and forcing her to perform oral sex. Authorities have said they have forensic evidence of a sexual encounter, but defense lawyers have said it was not forced.

Revelations of major problems with his accuser’s credibility were first reported in the New York Times.

Reports say investigators have come to believe that the woman lied about some of her activities in the hours around the alleged attack and about her own background.

Prosecutors think she also lied about details on her application for asylum in the US, including saying she had been raped in her native Guinea, the newspaper said.

Ken Thompson, the accuser’s attorney, did not back down on the seriousness of the charges.

“From Day One she has described a violent sexual assault that Dominique Strauss-Kahn committed against her,” he said.

“She has described that sexual assault many times, to prosecutors and to me, and she has never once changed a single thing about that encounter.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies