IMF chief on suicide watch at New York prison

Dominique Strauss-Kahn placed on suicide watch following his arrest and detention on attempted rape charges.

Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer has said he will plead not guilty at any trial, which could be as long as six months away [Reuters]

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has been placed on suicide watch following his arrest and detention on attempted rape charges.

Strauss-Kahn, who denies the charges, is expected to remain in New York’s Rikers Island jail, known for gang violence, at least until his next court appearance on Friday, when lawyers may again request bail.

A law enforcement source said Strauss-Kahn was being watched as a precautionary measure. 

A maid told New York police that Strauss-Kahn had tried to rape her in his hotel suite on 14 May and later picked him out at an identity parade.

A lawyer for the maid, a 32-year-old widow from Guinea with a 15-year-old daughter, said she had not been aware of Strauss-Kahn’s identity until a day after the alleged attack.

“She didn’t have any idea who he was or have any prior dealings with this guy,” Jeffrey Shapiro, a New York personal injury lawyer, said.

“She wants to remain anonymous because she’s very much afraid that something could happen to her physically, she feels very threatened by this,” he said of the global attention.

Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer has said he will plead not guilty at any trial, which could be as long as six months away. If convicted, he could face 25 years in prison.

‘Victim of plot’

An opinion poll in France, taken before his first court appearance on Monday and released on Wednesday, showed that more than half the population believe Strauss-Kahn was set up.

The poll by CSA, a French market research company, found that 57 per cent of respondents thought that the Socialist politician, who had been favourite for the 2012 French presidential election, was definitely or probably the victim of a plot.

About 70 per cent of Socialist sympathisers took that view.

So far, only one politician, not a Socialist, has publicly suggested such an explanation and most French media have dismissed conspiracy theories.

The poll findings highlighted a cultural divide, with French Socialist politicians and commentators denouncing what they see as the degrading parading of Strauss-Kahn, unshaven and in handcuffs, before he has had a chance to defend himself.

Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor, agreed such a display was humiliating and would be unfair if a defendant were to be found innocent.

“But if you don’t want to do the ‘perp walk’, don’t do the crime,” he told reporters.

US media have criticised the French for a tradition of secrecy on politicians’ sex lives, and for showing more compassion for Strauss-Kahn than for the alleged rape victim, whose identity some French newspapers have published.

Resignation calls

The IMF said it had not been in touch with Strauss-Kahn since his arrest but it would be important to do so “in due course”.

Two IMF board sources told the Reuters news agency that the board would ask Strauss-Kahn whether he planned to continue in his post.

The arrest, while dashing his prospects for the French presidency, has also raised a broader question over the future of the world economic body.

On Wednesday, the leader of the French governing party said a replacement for Strauss-Kahn would have to be worked out “in the coming days”.

“I don’t see how he can carry out the job as managing director of the IMF,” said Jean-Francois Cope, leader of France’s UMP party.

“So, by definition, this question will have to be settled in the coming days.”

The US, the IMF’s biggest shareholder, said Strauss-Kahn was clearly unable to go on running the global lender from a prison cell, whatever the eventual outcome of the allegations.

“I can’t comment on the case, but he is obviously not in a position to run the IMF,” Timothy Geithner, the US treasury secretary, said on Tuesday, calling for an official stand-in to be named.

Developing countries, including China, Brazil and South Africa, questioned Europe’s right to the IMF job but Europeans said it made sense for them to retain the post while the fund plays such a crucial role in helping to ease the eurozone debt crisis.

Source: News Agencies

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