Strauss-Kahn takes the stage in French pimping trial

Strauss-Kahn takes the stage in French pimping trial
A picture taken on February 26, 2013 shows former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaving a Paris courthouse

LILLE, France - Disgraced ex-IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose presidential hopes were torpedoed by a sex scandal, takes the stand at a French pimping trial Tuesday in a bid to convince judges he was not at the core of a prostitution ring.

The spotlight swings onto the 65-year-old in the second week of the trial in the northern city of Lille which involves 13 other accused, including police, a lawyer, a prostitute and a brothel owner known as "Dodo the Pimp".

Strauss-Kahn will have three days to fend off accusations that he organised for prostitutes to attend sex parties in Paris, Brussels and Washington. He will come face-to-face with some of the sex workers during his testimony.

The former finance minister, known as DSK in France, will argue he is merely a libertine who engaged in orgies with consenting adults and did not know the women lavishing their attention on him were prostitutes.

Strauss-Kahn attended the first day of trial - luring some 300 journalists to an otherwise run-of-the-mill court case - but his name has not directly come up since, as French court rules forbid defendants from mentioning anyone not in the room.

But there were hints of what is to come as former prostitute and key prosecution witness "Jade" tearfully told the court how she regretted being introduced to a "public figure." She is one of the two prostitutes who will testify that they attended the orgies with Strauss-Kahn and that he would be "naive" to have not realised they were professionals.

Court 'not guardian of morals'

The trial is the latest in a series of cases offering a peek behind the bedroom door of a man once tipped as a potential challenger to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

France was stunned when it saw Strauss-Kahn paraded handcuffed in front of the world's cameras after a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault in May 2011 - a case that was eventually settled in a civil suit.

Just six months later his name cropped up in an investigation into an alleged vice ring in which the managers and publicist of the luxury Carlton hotel in Lille organised lunchtime sex parties with prostitutes for their friends.

The first section of the trial, involving interlocking groups of people, focused on the so-called "Carlton Affair." Tears, amusement, and sordid details have marked the testimony of key members of the alleged Carlton vice ring - hotel publicist Rene Kojfer and brothel owner Dominique Alderweireld who is known as "Dodo the Pimp" - and the prostitutes who worked for them.

Bernard Lemaire, the chief of the four judges overseeing the three-week, jury-less trial said last week that "the court is not the guardian of morals but of the law and its proper application." While Strauss-Kahn says he never set foot in the Carlton, and denies knowing the two men, it is they who allegedly provided prostitutes - including "Jade" - to his entourage who threw the sex parties for him.

King of the party?

Did Strauss-Kahn ask his friends to bring prostitutes to the parties? Did he know they were paid?

Investigating judges believe so, giving rise to the charge of "aggravated pimping in an organised group" against Strauss-Kahn and these friends, two businessmen and an ex-police commissioner.

Prostitution is legal in France but procuring - the legal term for pimping which includes encouraging, benefiting from or organising prostitution - is a crime.

Judicial sources say Strauss-Kahn was "the king of the party" and that the orgies were organised around his schedule and that his mere presence gave rise to prostitution.

"In these circumstances one isn't always clothed, and I challenge you to tell the difference between a prostitute naked and any other woman naked," Strauss-Kahn's lawyer Henri Leclerc, 84, said in 2011.

The economist finds himself facing 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 1.5 million euros (US$1.7 million).

 

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