Dominique Strauss-Kahn has told the Guardian newspaper that his arrest and imprisonment on sexual assault charges was partly the work of his adversaries. He said he "did not believe that they would go that far."
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the man who one year ago appeared to be a frontrunner for the French presidency, accused political enemies linked to President Nicolas Sarkozy of helping to destroy his chances in an interview published on the British Guardian newspaper's website on Friday.
"It would appear that more was involved here than coincidence," the paper quotes him as saying.
Strauss-Kahn was arrested on May 13 last year, charged with sexual assault, and was held in custody without the opportunity for bail for one week. He was then put under house arrest. The scandal led to him stepping down as Director General of the International Monetary Fund - to be replaced by Nicolas Sarkozy's erstwhile finance minister Christine Lagarde - and not announcing his bid for the Socialist candidacy for president in this month's elections.
In the interview, Strauss Kahn does not dispute his encounter with hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo - which he says was consensual - but asserts that the way it was subsequently handled was the result of pressure from Paris.
"Perhaps I was politically naïve, but I simply did not believe that they would go that far - I didn't think they could find anything that could stop me," Straus-Kahn told the US journalist Edward Jay Epstein, who is about to publish a book on the matter. Epstein wrote that it was clear in the context of their conversation that the "they" referred to agents sympathetic to Sarkozy.
Plans for presidency, and the eurozone
Strauss-Kahn says in the two-hour interview that his cell phones had been bugged in the run-up to the scandal, with the article also suggesting he thought Parisian sources influenced the decision to hold him in prison for a week rather than granting him bail.
The New York public prosecutor eventually dropped the case against "DSK," owing to doubts about key witness Diallo's credibility. The Guinean national is pursuing the case in the civil courts. Her lawyer in that case, Douglas Windsor, was asked for his reaction by the Agence France Presse news agency.
"Utter nonsense, that's all I would say," Windsor said.
Strauss-Kahn says his encounter with Diallo was consensual, while the maid from the French-owned Sofitel in Manhattan says the 63-year-old violently forced her into performing oral sex.
Strauss-Kahn, whose comments have been published days ahead of the second round of the French presidential election, said he was certain he would currently be in Socialist candidate Francois Hollande's position, but for the scandal.
"I planned to make my formal announcement on 15 June  and I had no doubt I would be the candidate of the Socialist party," he said.
Strauss-Kahn told the Guardian he could not comment on a separate case over his alleged involvement in a prostitution ring in the northern French city of Lille, owing to legal restrictions.
He also says that one of his biggest regrets in the case was the fact that he could never travel on to his next scheduled appointment, a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. There, he had planned to submit a new plan for dealing with Greece's debt problems, codenamed "Comprehensive." With German backing, DSK said, the rest of Europe would have taken up the plan.
"I am not entirely sure I could have convinced her [Merkel] … now we will never know," he said.
msh/srs (AFP, Reuters)