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French outrage over 'inhumane' treatment of Strauss-Kahn highlights culture clash

Unless it is proven that International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn raped a hotel maid in New York, it's none of the public's business, many French say.

By Correspondent / May 17, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, waits to be arraigned Monday, May 16, in Manhattan Criminal Court for the alleged attack on a maid who went into his penthouse suite at a hotel near Times Square in New York to clean it.

Richard Drew/Pool/AP

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As International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn sits in an American detention center cell on Rikers Island, his case has spurred a hot debate on French attitudes toward politicians and sexual misconduct.

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Many in France are angry over the way US authorities have handled the Strauss-Kahn case, particularly the "perp walk" – which would be illegal in France – and the lack of bail, which they say implies that he has been presumed guilty, CNN reported.

"There's a general feeling of a media, a judicial fury – of a lynching," Jack Lang, France's former minister of culture and education and a Socialist Party lawmaker, told Europe 1 radio.

Lang called the American justice system "inhumane."

"For 48 hours now, only the side of the accusation has been heard ... and the versions given by police have been contradictory," he said. "The refusal to allow him out on bail, when no violent crime has been committed – even in America suspects are usually let go on bail if a violent crime has not been committed."

"They do feel he hasn't been given a chance to show his defense," [Nathan King, a correspondent for France 24 television network] said.

Robert Badinter, a member (like Strauss-Kahn) of France's Socialist party and a former justice minister, expressed dismay at the way the case was being handled in the US.

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He called Strauss-Kahn a friend and a man who many had rushed to accuse before even getting to the bottom of the situation. His comments were published in a roundup of reaction published by the French-language newspaper, Liberation.

"Where is the respect of the presumption of innocence?" he asked. "I see [in this situation] the failure of a system. It is a deliberate destruction, it is disgraceful, it has nothing to do with American justice. Why wasn't he released on bail? Because he is French? Because is the director of the IMF?"

Some have even gone so far as to speculate that his arrest was a plot by his political opponents who, working off of his reputation as the "Great Seducer," attempted frame him as a rapist – a possibility that Strauss-Kahn was concerned about even before the alleged assault, The Telegraph reports.

In the then off-the-record discussion on April 28, the International Monetary Fund chief said he could imagine a scenario where he was framed for a rape he did not commit. …

Mr. Strauss-Kahn then said there were three obstacles to his election: "Money (he is vastly wealthy), women, and my Judaism." Starting with the female question, the former Socialist finance minister said: "Yes, I love women, et alors?"

Strauss-Kahn elaborated on that concern, telling journalists he could "easily imagine 'a woman [who I supposedly] raped in a car park and who had been promised 500,000 or a million euros to invent such a story.' "

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