LILLE, France - Ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was to take the stand for a second day Wednesday in a bid to convince judges he was not at the heart of a global vice ring, in a trial which has exposed lurid details of his sex life.
The court in the northern French city of Lille, where the 65-year-old is charged alongside 13 others for "aggravated pimping", picked over often crude elements of the sexual preferences of the once-presidential front-runner when he first took the stand Tuesday.
However the crux of the case against him, is not whether he took part in group sex, but whether he organised for prostitutes to attend orgies in Paris, Brussels and Washington, which legally is considered procuring and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Strauss-Kahn steadfastly denies knowing that the women with whom he engaged in "free and friendly" libertinism were prostitutes, saying paying for sex would be too great a risk for a man at the head of the International Monetary Fund, which was busy "saving the world from an unprecedented" financial crisis.
He also said that as an unabashed libertine, the fun for him lay in the "playful party atmosphere" and the presence of prostitutes would render his soirees seedy.
"I am horrified at the practice of using prostitutes," he said.
Strauss-Kahn also objected to the impression given by the prosecution of a "frenetic" programme of sex parties, saying he only took part in such "recreational outlets" four times a year between 2008 and 2011.
'Right to a private life' Known in France as DSK, Strauss-Kahn finds himself back in the dock four years after his high-flying career and presidential prospects were torpedoed when he was accused of sexual assault by a New York hotel maid, a case later settled in a civil suit.
The trial is the latest challenge to France's traditional culture of being reluctant to peek behind the bedroom door of public figures.
"Everyone has the right to a private life," said Strauss-Kahn, the most high-profile of the accused who include a colourful cast of characters in interlocking vice cases, including police, a prostitute, lawyer and notorious brothel owner known as "Dodo the Pimp." His section of the trial has focused on one of the sex parties, held at a chic Parisian hotel.
The court has tried to understand if what went on was akin to so-called classic libertinism, which would point to whether Strauss-Kahn could have known the women at the parties were prostitutes.
"It has happened 10 times that a woman offers herself to me. It is nothing unusual to me," Strauss-Kahn said.
Asked to define a libertine party, Strauss-Kahn said it was when men and women "came together for the pleasure of sex."
Libertinism or carnage?
However one former prostitute, Jade - who attended several parties with DSK - described scenes of "carnage" at such a party at a chic Parisian hotel.
"There was (DSK) surrounded by women" on a bed. "That isn't libertinism, there were no other men. No one asked my name, there was just a hand on my head to perform fellatio," she said.
However Strauss-Kahn's female lawyer Frederique Baulieu read evidence from a girlfriend who accompanied him to the party and described it as "free and friendly" - prompting court judge Bernard Lemaire to say "this shows people have different views of libertinism".
Baulieu also carefully picked apart Jade's assertion that Strauss-Kahn was covered in up to eight women, forcing the former prostitute to concede on second count there could only have been three at most with him.
Mounia, another former prostitute, also detailed how Strauss-Kahn performed a sexual act on her which was "against nature" during the party, despite her tears.
"I think he realised (I didn't want to do it)," she said, adding that she had not refused it because she needed the money.
Strauss-Kahn strongly denied being aware of any resistance on her part.
"What is sure is we didn't experience the same thing (at that party). To me it was friendly, playful."
Both Jade and Mounia said they had not mentioned to DSK that they were prostitutes, but argue it was obvious they were there for him, and that he would have been "naive" not to know why.
Also questioned with Strauss-Kahn were members of his entourage accused of organising and financing the parties.
Businessman Fabrice Paszkowski said he never told his close friend Strauss-Kahn he had paid the women to attend, as he would have been ashamed to do so.