French woman 'to sue' Strauss-Kahn for attempted rape

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A French writer is set to launch legal action for attempted rape against former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, just days after he was released from house arrest in New York on sexual assault charges.

Tristane Banon, 32, indicated she would send "a complaint for attempted rape" against Strauss-Kahn to prosecutors, likely on Tuesday, her lawyer David Koubbi told the news magazine L'Express on its website.

Koubbi told AFPTV that Banon "took that decision because she endured what she accuses Dominique Strauss-Kahn of and in France as elsewhere when you are a victim of an attempted rape, you must file a complaint."

The French writer and journalist herself told the L'Express website that "seeing Strauss-Kahn freed (from house arrest) then afterward dining in a fancy restaurant with friends, that makes me sick."

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers hit back by threatening Banon, who once branded the former IMF chief a "rutting chimpanzee", with a defamation suit.

Strauss-Kahn, who resigned from his IMF post after being charged with sexual assault in New York, dismissed Banon's claims as "imaginary", his lawyers Henri Leclerc and Frederique Baulieu told AFP in a statement.

They said they "were in the process of compiling a libel complaint against her."

The prospect of a fresh criminal complaint against Strauss-Kahn came as the case in New York, where he was recently released from house arrest on charges of trying to rape a hotel maid, looked set to collapse after prosecutors revealed they had doubts about the credibility of his accuser.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers said Banon's complaint "comes at a time when the untruthful nature of the accusations he faces in the United States are no longer in any doubt."

In February 2007, Banon was a guest on a television chat show and recounted how a senior politician a few years before had lured her to a virtually empty apartment in the guise of agreeing to give an interview and then assaulted her.

In the broadcast version of Banon's comments the name of the politician was bleeped out, but a year later Banon confirmed to the AgoraVox website that she was referring to Strauss-Kahn.

"I put down the recorder straight away to record him. He wanted to hold my hand while he replied, because he told me 'I wouldn't be able to manage unless you hold my hand'," she alleged in the Paris Premiere broadcast.

"Then the hand went to my arm, then a bit further, so I stopped straight away," she explained. "It finished very violently -- as I told him clearly 'No, No!' -- and we finished up fighting on the floor.

"There wasn't just a couple of blows. I kicked him, and he tried to unclip my bra, to open my jeans," Banon alleged, adding that she eventually escaped and considered pressing charges before abandoning the idea.

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.

Koubbi referred to the attack as taking place in 2003, although her mother has previously said the incident occurred in 2002.

Banon also says then Socialist Party chief Francois Hollande was aware of the accusations, as her mother has said, but on May 20 Hollande denied "ever knowing such grave facts" as Banon has claimed.

Questioned Monday during a visit to the French Overseas Department of Martinique, Hollande declared: "Eight years later, a complaint is issued about an alleged incident of which I have no detailed knowledge."

Before his arrest in New York, Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist heavyweight, polled as the person most likely to beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 election.

Koubbi denied the decision to proceed with a complaint now was driven by political motives or influenced by the unravelling of the New York case.

"Even if (the New York) case against Mr Strauss-Kahn turns out to be unfounded, ours is not. It is extremely solid and backed up," L'Express quoted him as saying.

Kenneth Thompson, who is representing the hotel maid accuser in New York, applauded Banon's decision to file a sexual assault complaint against Strauss-Kahn.

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