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Bizarre twist in the case of ex-IMF President Dominique Strauss by Eric Margois

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Mon dieu! The head spins. Crazy things happen in New York, but the latest bizarre twist in the case of French bigwig Dominique Strauss takes the cake.

Last Friday, US prosecutors revealed that the hotel maid who had accused former International Monetary Fund chief Strauss-Kahn of raping her in his hotel suite was a serial liar. She had lied about being raped to get into the US, lied on her tax returns, and lied on numerous other issues. It is unprecedented for prosecutors to discredit their own star witness. The government may have done so because of rumours that the defence, which had assigned a number of crack investigators to check into the maid’s background, was about to go public with the embarrassing information.

Strauss-Kahn (universally known as DSK) has now been released from house arrest under which he had to pay for an armed guard to watch him. His costs to avoid being locked up in New York’s ghastly prison gulag, Riker’s Island, was said to be $100,000 weekly. US prosecutors say they will still proceed with the case. So will the maid’s damage-seeking civil suit. But legal experts here say DSK is likely to be acquitted now that his accuser has been exposed as a liar and fraudster.

This incredible circus puts the US justice system on trial before the eyes of the world. The Wild West frontier arrest and treatment of DSK, the lynch-mob mood and his public humiliation make the US look like a nasty third world state. Getting the scalp of a famous Frenchman, not justice, was the goal of US prosecutors.

The judicial near lynching of DSK humiliated France. DSK was expected to win next year’s French presidential election. France’s current President, Nicholas Sarkozy, is highly unpopular with the public and looked almost certain to be defeated by DSK, if he had decided to quit as head of the IMF and run as the Socialist presidential candidate.

Until last Friday, France’s Socialists appeared doomed to defeat. Their assorted candidates induced sleep and yawn, not cheers of support. Sarkozy must have thanked his lucky stars when DSK was arrested on sordid charges that shocked and horrified France.

But now, in an amazing reversal of fortune, DSK may actually beat the wrap in New York and return to France. The able Christine Lagarde has replaced him at the IMF, relieving DSK the decision of staying on there or returning to French politics. France’s left is beyond elated by the impending collapse of the DSK trial. Not only have the ruinous charges against him been exposed as lies, but DSK may well emerge from the legal ordeal as a martyr. All France noted the dignity and courage with which DSK and his wife Anne Sinclair bore their public humiliation and the threats of 30 years in prison.

So if Strauss-Kahn escapes the legal quick sands in New York, he could quickly return triumphant to France and begin campaigning against President Sarkozy.

Many French will be convinced that their first impression after DSK was arrested – that he was victim of a nefarious political plot or financial shakedown – was correct. The finger of suspicion will point at those who could have benefitted from his humiliation and conviction.

If the chambermaid episode was indeed a plot, it was conceived and executed with great skill and daring. DSK’s notoriety as a satyr was artfully used to draw him into this honey trap. Paris has long been abuzz with tittle-tattle about his sexual escapades in private and public. We see the handwork of professionals. Angry feminists who claimed the maid was a victim of male sexism and oppression will be rightly embarrassed. Those males who claim that women are prone to untruths and fanciful accounts will feel vindicated.

More important, the US prosecutors who allowed this circus to occur should be fired and sent to North Dakota. America’s justice system is embarrassing and desperately needs to be elevated to civilised standards.

The skirt-chasing DSK is an unlikely model, but he may end up teaching the US a lesson in civilised behaviour and judicial caution that it badly needs.

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