US & Canada

Ex-IMF chief Strauss-Kahn pleads not guilty

The former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has entered a plea of not guilty in a New York court to charges of attempted rape and sexual assault.

The 62-year-old Frenchman is accused of assaulting a maid at the Manhattan hotel where he was staying on 14 May.

The complainant's lawyer said outside court she "just wants justice".

Mr Strauss-Kahn's lawyer said there had been "no element of compulsion" in the incident between the two parties.

His next court date is set for 18 July.

The former finance chief - who faces up to 25 years in prison if found guilty - arrived at New York Supreme Court on Monday with his wife, the French television journalist Anne Sinclair.

'Shame on you!'

A group of hotel workers shouted, "Shame on you!", in a show of solidarity with the maid who accuses him of attacking her.

Image caption Several dozen hotel workers were taken by a union-organised bus to protest outside the court

She has not been idenitifed, but is known to be a 32-year-old single mother and immigrant worker from the West African country of Guinea.

The accused spoke in a firm voice only twice: to enter his plea, and to confirm his next appearance.

Defence lawyer Ben Brafman said outside court after the brief hearing: "It will be clear that there was no element of forcible compulsion in this case whatsoever.

"Any suggestion to the contrary is simply not credible."

Mr Brafman has defended a string of high-profile clients, including Michael Jackson.

The complainant's lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, said outside court: "It was a terrible sex assault on an innocent woman. She's going to come to the court house.

"She's going to tell the truth. What she wants is justice. She is a woman of dignity and respect. She's not courting publicity."

Monday's formal plea before Judge Michael Obus sets the stage for a lengthy trial process, which is likely to start in the autumn.

New York police arrested Mr Strauss-Kahn hours after the alleged assault on a plane that was about to take off for Paris.

He was charged on 15 May on seven counts, including attempted rape, criminal sexual assault, sex abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching.

Mr Strauss-Kahn spent four days behind bars in Rikers Island prison, before being bailed.

He has since been under house arrest and under armed guard, first in a Manhattan apartment and now in a deluxe townhouse.

The arrest made headlines around the world, rocking the political establishment in France, where Mr Strauss-Kahn was considered a contender for next year's presidential elections.

Many in France believe the Socialist party figure has been mistreated, but the case has also sparked a national debate about sexual harassment.

Mr Strauss-Kahn resigned his post at the IMF after his arrest. The organisation has yet to name a permanent replacement.