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US, French officials press on with DSK probes

Police questioned a French writer on Monday over her claim that Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2003, while the former IMF head's next court appearance in his New York sex assault case was delayed until August 1st.

French judicial officials said detectives from the Paris violent crimes squad interviewed another alleged Strauss-Kahn victim, journalist Tristane Banon, 32.

Banon, who in 2007 publicly accused the former IMF hear of trying to force himself on her “like a rutting chimpanzee,” lodged a formal complaint last week against Strauss-Kahn.

After the police interviews, prosecutors in France will decide whether to charge the 62-year-old, who was formerly the opposition French Socialists’ best hope to beat Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s presidential election.

Meanwhile, Strauss-Kahn, who faces seven criminal charges in New York for allegedly trying to rape a 32-year old hotel maid back in May, had been due to appear in a US court on July 18. On Monday however his court date was pushed back, at the request of both defense and prosecution attorneys.

The former IMF chief, who resigned his post with the International Monetary Fund in order to fight the charges against him, has denied the sexual assault and attempted rape of the maid in his luxury Manhattan hotel suite.

Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer said Monday that his client filed a lawsuit for defamation against Banon late last week.

But the allegations threaten to overwhelm resurgent hopes that he could bounce back politically after being arrested in New York.

Those hopes had revived this month when the US case against Strauss-Kahn appeared to be in trouble amid doubts over the maid’s credibility.

Banon, who is the god-daughter of Strauss-Kahn’s second wife, Brigitte Guillemette, first made the allegations on television back in 2007.

In that broadcast, she accused Strauss-Kahn of trying to force himself on her, but said she was persuaded at the time that no-one would take her word against the powerful politician’s if she sued.

The channel that aired those comments, Paris Premiere, said it will broadcast the show again on Wednesday. Strauss-Kahn’s name was bleeped out but Banon confirmed in a separate interview she was referring to him.

Banon’s lawyer David Koubbi said last week he had material evidence and witnesses to back her allegations.

In an interview published last week online by L’Express magazine, she repeated her account of the alleged attack, saying Strauss-Kahn had “his hands in my pants after he ripped off my jeans and bra.”

She added: “Eight years ago when I talked about bringing a complaint, everyone had me believe that it would lead nowhere. In these matters it is one person’s word against another.”

When US media reported that prosecutors were poised to drop the charges, Banon said, “seeing Strauss-Kahn freed then afterwards dining in a fancy restaurant with friends, that makes me sick.”

Banon’s legal action prompted awkward questions for Socialists whom Banon says knew about her alleged ordeal at the time and did nothing.

She said former Socialist Party chief Francois Hollande, currently polling as the leading Socialist presidential candidate, was aware of the accusations, but he has insisted he had “no detailed knowledge” of the alleged incident.

Banon’s mother, Socialist politician Anne Mansouret, confirmed she had advised her at the time not to make a formal complaint for fear of hurting her daughter’s career in journalism.

Strauss-Kahn’s allies, meanwhile, have branded Banon an opportunist.

“Clearly certain people are not happy about the return of Dominique Strauss-Kahn,” Socialist MP Jean-Marie Le Guen told reporters last week.

Banon turned up for questioning by police on Monday morning and left in the early afternoon, said judicial officials who asked not to be named. They and people close to Banon gave no further details.

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TRIAL

Ghosn trial may be delayed until next year: Japanese media

Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn's trial, which was expected to begin in September, will be delayed, local media said Saturday, hinting that it may not start this year.

Ghosn trial may be delayed until next year: Japanese media
Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn leaving a detention centre on Thursday. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP
The 65-year-old tycoon, currently on bail, is preparing for his trial on four charges of financial misconduct ranging from concealing part of his salary from shareholders to syphoning off Nissan funds for his personal use.
   
The Tokyo District Court had proposed to start his trial in September during its pre-trial meetings with his defence lawyers and prosecutors, news reports said, quoting unnamed sources.
   
But the court told the lawyers and prosecutors on Friday that it had retracted the plan without proposing a new time frame, Kyodo News said, adding that the move could mean the trial will not start this year.
   
The court also decided not to separate the trial for Ghosn, his close aide Greg Kelly and Nissan — all indicted on the charge of violating the financial instruments law by underreporting Ghosn's compensation, according to Kyodo.
   
His lawyers have so far demanded he be tried separately from Nissan and have voiced fears he will not receive a fair trial.
   
The Sankei Shimbun also said prosecutors gave up filing an appeal to the Supreme Court against his bail, a move to erasing a chance of his return to jail unless he is arrested again on fresh charges. Immediate confirmation of the news reports was not available.
   
On Thursday, Ghosn exited his Tokyo detention centre after accepting bail of $4.5 million under strict conditions, including restrictions on seeing his wife.
   
His case has captivated Japan and the business community with its multiple twists and turns, as well as shone a spotlight on the Japanese justice system which critics say is overly harsh.
   
Ghosn denies all the charges, with a spokesperson for the executive saying on Monday he would “vigorously defend himself against these baseless accusations and fully expects to be vindicated”.
   
In a statement hours after his release, Ghosn said: “No person should ever be indefinitely held in solitary confinement for the purpose of being forced into making a confession.”
   
The dramatic case has thrown international attention onto the Japanese justice system, derided by critics as “hostage justice” as it allows prolonged detention and relies heavily on suspects' confessions.
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