Paris - Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s allies are hoping that new doubts about the New York chambermaid who accused of him of assault can help revive his 2012 French presidential bid.
New York prosecutors have serious questions about the housekeeper’s credibility and will seek a substantial reduction Friday in Strauss-Kahn’s bail, a person familiar with the case said.
Investigators have come to believe that the woman lied about some of her activities in the hours around the alleged attack and about her own background, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday. The official is familiar with the case but spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters not yet made public in court.
Prosecutors think she lied about details on her application for asylum in the U.S., including saying she had been raped in her native Guinea, the official told the AP.
“She actually recounted the entire story to prosecutors and later said it was false,” the official said.
Prosecutors haven’t necessarily reached a new conclusion about the allegations against Strauss-Kahn and have not decided whether to downgrade the charges, the official said.
Many in France welcomed the surprising news — not only those who want to see Socialist Strauss-Kahn replace conservative Nicolas Sarkozy as president, but also many who feel the American media and public have unfairly assumed the 62-year-old Frenchman is guilty.
“Those who know Dominique Strauss-Kahn will not be surprised by this evolution of events,” one of Strauss-Kahn’s French lawyers and a friend for 40 years, Leon Lef Forster, told The Associated Press. “What he was accused of has no relation to his personality. It was something that was not credible.”
Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund and a prominent member of France’s Socialist Party, was considered a leading potential contender for next year’s presidential election in France before he was charged with attempted rape in May. He denies the allegations.
His arrest upended French politics and appeared to dash his ambitions for France’s top job. For months, polls had suggested that Strauss-Kahn would beat Sarkozy and enjoyed greater popularity than any other Socialist.
Sarkozy did not comment publicly Friday about the new legal developments in New York. The deadline for declaring candidacy in the French presidency is July 13.
French Socialist politician Michele Sabban said her party should put its presidential primary calendar on hold if Strauss-Kahn is exonerated.
“If Dominique Strauss-Kahn is cleared, I ask the Socialist Party to suspend the primary process,” Sabban said Friday on i-tele television.
The chief of the Socialist Party, Martine Aubry, said the news brought her “immense joy.”
“I hope that the American justice system establishes all the truth tonight and allows Dominique to get out of this nightmare,” she told reporters.
Aubry announced this week that she will seek the Socialist nomination for president. She and Strauss-Kahn had been rumored to be discussing some kind of joint ticket for the election.
The prospect that Strauss-Kahn could be released was greeted with satisfaction in France in part because many here felt that the case had stained the country’s reputation.
French viewers were shocked to see the man they thought might be their next president shackled and paraded before New York reporters. It’s illegal in France to broadcast images of a suspect in handcuffs before a conviction.
Another Socialist, Jean-Marie Le Guen, said on France-Inter radio that Strauss-Kahn “will be present in the presidential campaign” and that “the political stakes are changed by this event.”
“All those who dragged him in the mud are perhaps seeing things differently today, ” he said on France-Info radio.
Le Guen was among many French people, both supporters and critics of Strauss-Kahn, who had claimed the IMF leader was the target of a political conspiracy to torpedo his presidential chances. Within days of his arrest, a poll suggested that a majority of French thought Strauss-Kahn was the victim of a plot.
Other French politicians and commentators urged caution Friday, noting that the case against Strauss-Kahn is ongoing and that it may be premature to jump to conclusions about France’s presidential elections, held in two rounds next April in May.
Strauss-Kahn, who faces a court hearing in New York on Friday, has been under armed guard in a Manhattan town house after posting a total of $6 million in cash bail and bond.
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