Live report: IMF chief arrested on sex assault charges

IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn
© AFP/File Nicholas Kamm


(AFP) – 1500 GMT: There’s confusion in the courtroom. Strauss-Kahn has left. “The police officers took him back out the same way he came in a few minutes ago,” says AFP’s Stephane Jourdain. We’ll bring you more details as soon as possible…

1458 GMT: “Strauss-Kahn is visibly tired,” says AFP’s Stephane Jourdain in the courtoom. “He is looking at the judge and speaking with police officers.”

1453 GMT: AFP’s Sebastian Smith says Strauss-Kahn has arrived in the courtroom. “He’s wearing a black raincoat and a light-colored shirt. He’s sitting on the bench where all the accused criminals wait before standing before the judge.”

1452 GMT: “For journalists, the first goal is to get in the courtroom – and many have been shut out,” says AFP’s Sebastian Smith in the courtroom.

“But for those inside there is a second game that has been played for more than 24 hours: when will Strauss-Kahn actually appear?

“The latest buzz is that he could appear imminently because the other cases the court deals with — the mostly petty criminals entering guilty pleas and receiving immediate sentences — has stopped entirely.”

1445 GMT: The White House says it is “confident” that the International Monetary Fund can function “effectively” despite the attempted rape charges against its chief.

1425 GMT: Montek Singh Ahluwalia, one of India’s most prominent policy planners, is being talked about by local media as a potential replacement for Strauss-Kahn if he resigns from the IMF’s top job.

But he has denied that he’s interested in the role. “I am not looking for any such thing,” said Ahluwalia, who was the first director of the IMF’s independent evaluation office for three years until 2004 and is currently deputy chairman of India’s influential Planning Commission.

The Times of India says the arrest of Strauss-Kahn has raised hopes of a non-European being named to the job of IMF chief should he quit. New Delhi has been lobbying for a non-European.

1422 GMT: Strauss-Kahn’s fight against the accusations will start formally when he is arraigned in New York state court, his lawyers say.

He will plead not guilty to charges that he attempted to rape a chambermaid in his luxury Manhattan hotel room.

Judge Melissa Jackson will then decide whether to free Strauss-Kahn on bail.

Prosecutors are likely to argue that he is a flight risk, given that he was detained on Sunday after he rushed from to JFK Airport and was just minutes from taking off on a flight to France.

1421 GMT: AFP’s Stephane Jourdain has spotted Patrick Lachaussée, a representative of the French consulate in New York, in the courtroom.

1416 GMT: The leader of France’s opposition Socialists says it was “humiliating” to see its presidential hope handcuffed after his arrest.

“I am astounded by the images I saw this morning,” said Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry. “It is deeply humiliating.”

1415 GMT: Joining Germany, Belgium’s Finance Minister has said that the top IMF job should go to a European should Strauss-Kahn resign following sex assault charges in New York.

“It is preferable that Europe keeps its place at the heart of the IMF,” Reynders said, joining two days of talks among European finance ministers — which would have been attended by Strauss-Kahn if he hadn’t been arrested.

1408 GMT: AFP’s Stephane Jourdain is in the courtroom. “It’s a medium-sized courtroom, painted white with dark brown wood,” he says. “The American flag is up behind the judge’s chair with the phrase ‘In God we trust’.

“A few petty criminal cases must be heard before DSK appears — for assaults, traffic offences, leaving taxis without paying the driver, and that kind of thing.

“Each case is finished up within ten minutes.”

1345 GMT: AFP’s Stephane Jourdain in New York says around fifteen TV satellite trucks are stationed in front of Hogan Place, near the criminal court where Strauss-Kahn is to appear.

“The courtroom is not huge,” says Stephane. “There are around fifty journalists inside. The rest are stuck outside.”

1251 GMT: European officials have stressed that speculation over Strauss-Kahn’s succession is premature.

“To my knowledge, the question is not on anyone’s lips today,” said senior European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen.

1153 GMT: Mario Draghi, the head of Italy’s central bank, would not be interested in taking over from Strauss-Kahn as head of the IMF, the bank says.

Draghi is set to be appointed as the next president of the European Central Bank by eurozone finance ministers later today.

1151 GMT: France’s newspapers are united in declaring that the scandal has ended Strauss-Kahn’s political career.

“As we wait for truth to be sorted from falsehood, one thing is already certain: Dominique Strauss-Kahn will not be the next president of the French Republic,” says the right-leaning FIgaro.

“The Socialists have lost the only candidate who was, in all possible configurations, leading in the polls. And who was capable of beating Nicolas Sarkozy,” the left-leaning Liberation says in its editorial.

1142 GMT: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed that Strauss-Kahn should be considered innocent until US judicial authorities rule on charges that he tried to rape a hotel maid in New York.

1140 GMT: Any French inquiry into Strauss-Kahn’s conduct will be carried out under different conditions from those in New York, where if he persists with a “not guilty” plea he will be tried before a jury of citizens.

In France, an examining magistrate must consider evidence for and against the charge and conduct a closed-door inquiry before deciding whether to bring the evidence in front of a panel of judges.

1130 GMT: Some background now on the news that French writer Tristane Banon is to make a complaint alleging that Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her in 2002.

In February 2007, Banon told a television chat show that a senior politician had sexually assaulted her in a virtually empty apartment, in the guise of agreeing to give an interview and then assaulted her.

She branded the politician a “rutting chimpanzee” but his name was bleeped out. A year later Banon confirmed to the AgoraVox website that she was referring to Strauss-Kahn.

Banon’s mother, Socialist politician and blogger Anne Mansouret, confirmed to the news website Rue89 that she had advised her daughter at the time not to make a formal complaint, for fear of hurting her career in journalism.

1101 GMT: And now Europe’s stock markets are sliding on fears that the arrest could hit efforts to tame the eurozone debt crisis

In late morning deals, London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index sank 0.82 percent to 5,877.71 points, Frankfurt’s DAX 30 dipped 1.40 percent to 7,299.16 points and in Paris the CAC 40 index shed 1.35 percent to 3,963.72.

The Stoxx 50 index of leading eurozone companies lost 1.26 percent to 2,858.25 points.
1050 GMT: Shares on Asian markets have fallen, with worries over Europe’s debt crisis compounded by Strauss-Kahn’s bombshell arrest.

Tokyo closed down 0.94 percent, losing 90.47 points to stand at 9,558.30. Sydney slumped 1.30 percent, or 61.4 points, to a two-month-low 4,650.00, and Seoul closed 0.75 percent, or 15.9 points, lower at 2,104.18.

Hong Kong finished 1.36 percent, or 315.64 points, lower at 22,960.63 and Shanghai was off 0.76 percent, or 21.96 points, at 2,849.07.

1040 GMT:  Ireland’s Europe Minister says Strauss-Kahn’s absence at today’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers won’t affect the discussions.

“It is not unusual for the head of the IMF to be absent from a meeting like this and I don’t think it’ll really have any impact,” Lucinda Creighton told RTE state radio.

1028 GMT: Strauss-Kahn’s arrest is throwing a giant cloud over a meeting of EU finance ministers to approve a rescue for Portugal, fight new debt fires in Greece and name a new president for the ECB.

The IMF chief had been due to take part in the talks in Brussels, which will start at 1300 GMT.

The IMF says that deputy managing director Nemat Shafik will attend the meetings, which run until Tuesday, in Strauss-Kahn’s place.

1024 GMT: Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sex assault case should have no impact on joint European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout planning for distressed eurozone states, the European Commission says.

1023 GMT: Elsewhere in Europe, policy-makers are already looking ahead to a possibility that Strauss-Kahn may resign over the scandal.

Germany’s government spokesman Steffen Seibert says his country would like another European to replace the current IMF chief if he stands down.

“Europe doesn’t have a right to the director’s chair, but in the current situation when the IMF is especially needed to fight the crisis in some euro states, the German government would favour a good European candidate,” Seibert told a press conference.

1007 GMT: Here’s some more on the breaking news that a French writer is to bring charges of sexual assault against Strauss-Kahn.

Tristane Banon, a novelist and journalist, previously made the allegation against the leading politician in 2007 on television and in an interview with a news website. But the 31-year-old had not made a formal complaint to authorities.

“We’re planning to make a complaint. I am working with her,” lawyer David Koubbi said, adding that his client had previously been persuaded not to take action by her mother, a regional councillor in Strauss-Kahn’s Socialist Party.

1005 GMT: Here’s a summary of the most recent key developments:  

– Strauss-Kahn is due to appear before a judge in New York today, when he will deny claims that he imprisoned a maid in a luxury Manhattan hotel before sexually assaulting her, his lawyer Benjamin Brafman has told reporters.

– French writer Tristane Banon is to make a complaint alleging that Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her in 2002, her lawyers say.

– US police say they have won a warrant to seek DNA evidence on the IMF chief’s clothes.

– The woman accusing Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape, who has been employed for the past three years at the luxury Sofitel hotel near Times Square, picked Strauss-Kahn out of a line-up on Sunday. The woman claims Strauss-Kahn assaulted her in his suite when he got out of his shower naked, a police spokesman told AFP.

– Even if he is cleared of the charges against him, the scandal is likely to end his dream of becoming France’s president.

1000 GMT: Welcome to AFP’s live coverage of the arrest of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York, accused of attempting to rape a hotel chambermaid.
We’ll bring you regular updates as events unfold.

© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license

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