Monday, 4 July 2011

France rocked by new twist in DSK case

Revelations last week challenging the credibility of the New York chambermaid who says she was raped by former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn have triggered a whirlwind of speculation, recrimination, and of course good old-fashioned America-bashing in France.

Even before the revelations on Friday and DSK's subsequent release from house arrest, there was already widespread doubt in France that he was guilty. Polling indicated that 57% of French people thought DSK, who was until his arrest the leading contender to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential election, was set up. The French media was scandalised by the US media's coverage of the case, which they said seemed to be presuming DSK's guilt. They were particularly outraged by the so-called 'perp walk' of a handcuffed DSK in front of the news cameras, something that is illegal to show in France if someone has not been convicted of a crime.

The case against DSK now looks almost certain to be dropped after it emerged that the woman has allegedly worked as a prostitute in the past. It also came to light that she had changed her story to investigators. Rather than reporting the incident to the hotel right away, she actually cleaned another room after the alleged attack and then went back to Strauss-Kahn's room to finish cleaning it.

Of course, none of this means that the sexual assault didn't take place. The prosecution says the evidence still supports her story of a forced encounter, and the criminal trial is still going forward for now (meaning that DSK cannot yet leave the United States). But this hasn't stopped the French media this weekend from painting DSK as a persecuted innocent figure, hounded by a sex-obsessed US press. There is now talk that DSK may still run for president, even though the deadline for filing an intention to run is in just a week. A poll conducted over the weekend showed that half of French people want him to return to politics.

The criticism of the American media and justice system which presumed DSK to be guilty (in the same way that the French media now seems to be presuming him to be innocent) was everywhere this weekend. The newspaper Le Monde essentially called the US justice system a political farce, saying that since prosecutors are elected they will often go after high-profile cases without merit in a bid to seek publicity. "The American media-justice machine has run away with itself, at a time when it most needed to prove its slowness and prudence".

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who drew furious criticism when he very publicly defended his friend DSK in May, wrote a column on The Daily Beast on Saturday saying both he and his friend have no been vindicated. Saying that the treatment of DSK by the Americans had reached "the height of obscenity"

Yet there have also been voices on the other side in France, particularly feminists who have pointed out that nothing in the new revelations indicates that DSK is innocent. And, they say, the saga has in the process exposed a misogynistic attitude toward women both from France at large and from DSK himself. A French author has announced that she intends to sue DSK for an attempted rape that took place in the past.

Much is now unclear about the whole situation, but two things seem quite likely: that the charges against Dominique Strauss Kahn will be dropped within a matter of weeks, and that he will not seek his party's nomination for the presidency. Though he may still enjoy public support, it's hard to imagine how he could escape the association with this entire saga and the revelations about his behavior that it prompted, whether or not he is guilty of this particular assault. At the same time, the serious credibility problems that have apaprently arisen with this witness mean it is unlikely a trial is going to go ahead. Still, we may never know the truth of what went on in that hotel room.

1 comment:

Captain Kid said...

It's not about presuming that he is innocent. It's about our right to be not guilty until it is proven that we are not. And the US has more than once shown that it has not internalized this simple right.

It seems as if you belong to that kind of people who are not willing to internalize it. It is very obvious that you think DSK is guilty and that you don't have any problem with possibly innocent people being called names by a crowd of dozens of people, with newspapers publicly executing people that were not even found guilty.

If you dismiss the fight for that judicial right and for a person's dignity as "America-bashing" (again), well what else is there left to say?