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Strauss-Kahn case returns to US court

28 March 2012, 10:04

New York - Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, mired in legal trouble in his native France, faces new courtroom worries across the Atlantic on Wednesday, with the first hearing in a US civil suit.

The hearing in New York state court in the Bronx will be the first in a civil suit brought by the hotel maid whose accusation of attempted rape last year triggered the downfall of one of the world's most powerful politicians.

Although US prosecutors tossed out criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn after deciding that Nafissatou Diallo's allegations would not stand up in court, the maid's lawyers later filed a civil suit seeking unspecified damages.

Strauss-Kahn and Diallo are neither required, nor expected, to be present in court.

Judge Douglas McKeon is due to start by hearing arguments on whether the suit should be dismissed because Strauss-Kahn had diplomatic immunity as head of the International Monetary Fund when he was arrested May 14.

The ruling may not come for several weeks, McKeon told AFP.

However, unless Strauss-Kahn settles, the arguments could prove to be the first salvo in open court of a drawn-out and bitter battle between Strauss-Kahn's powerful legal team and lawyers for Diallo.

Allegations in the civil suit are much the same as the criminal charges initially lodged against Strauss-Kahn: that Diallo went to clean his luxury Sofitel hotel suite in Manhattan and came under brutal sexual assault.

The fallen politician, who at the time of the incident had been seen as a favourite to win France's presidency, says a sexual encounter took place in his hotel room, but insists it was consensual.

Meanwhile, in France, Strauss-Kahn was charged on Monday in an unrelated sex case of alleged pimping. He could face a sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors say Strauss-Kahn was involved in an organised vice ring that supplied prostitutes for orgies with wealthy men. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers say he attended group sex parties but did not know the women were paid to be there.



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