- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2011

PARIS (AP) — A French novelist will file a complaint Tuesday accusing Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape, her lawyer said, raising the prospect of a new sex-assault investigation starting just as the U.S. case against the former International Monetary Fund chief falters.

The announcement threw Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s legal situation in his home country into question and injected fresh uncertainty into a national debate about whether he will be able to return to his political career and enter the 2012 presidential race.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn went on the offensive against his French accuser Tuesday evening, saying through his legal team that he planned to file his own criminal complaint of slander against her.

The sexual assault case against Mr. Strauss-Kahn in New York was weakened badly last week by prosecutors’ publicly expressing doubts about the credibility of the hotel maid who accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex.

As a result, France was consumed Monday morning by the question of whether the longtime Socialist Party politician would — or should — revive his dream of running against unpopular conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s supporters suffered a new shock within hours, when the lawyer for writer and journalist Tristane Banon announced she planned to file the complaint in Paris within a day.

Ms. Banon, 31, said on a 2007 television show that she had been attacked five years earlier by a politician she had interviewed for a book. She later identified the man as Mr. Strauss-Kahn.

“It finished very violently,” she said on the television show. “I kicked him. He opened my bra. He tried to undo my jeans. It finished very badly.”

Lawyer David Koubbi said Ms. Banon had been dissuaded from filing charges by her mother, a regional councilor in Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s Socialist party. Her mother, Anne Mansouret, admitted in a French television interview in May that she had urged her daughter not to file a complaint after the incident.

Ms. Banon came forward again after Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s May 14 arrest in New York, but Mr. Koubbi said his client had no intention of pressing charges while the American prosecution was going on because the two cases should be kept separate.

Ms. Banon now moving forward, Mr. Koubbi told the Associated Press. He denied the decision was connected to the weakening of the U.S. case.

“It is all the same to me what happens in the hours and days to come in the United States,” he said.

Ms. Mansouret, a regional official in Normandy, did not respond to requests for comment.

If Ms. Banon files her complaint, a prosecutor can conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether there is enough evidence to support charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Preliminary charges are followed by a lengthier investigation, sometimes lasting years, to determine whether the case should go to trial before a judge.

Prosecutors could decide not to pursue the case if they find evidence Mr. Strauss-Kahn engaged in forcible sexual contact that fell short of attempted rape. The statute of limitations on the charge of “sexual assault” is three years, while attempted-rape charges can be filed for as long as 10 years after the alleged crime.

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