DSK 'not aware' of prostitutes
Disgraced former International Monetary Fund boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn has told a French court he was unaware that women who took part in orgies at luxury hotels in Paris and Washington DC were prostitutes.
The 65-year-old and 13 co-defendants are on trial in Lille accused of aggravated pimping in connection with a sex ring centred on the Hotel Carlton in the city.
In his first testimony since the trial started on February 2, Strauss-Kahn reaffirmed his long-standing defence that he did not know of the "prostitutional character" of the women who took part in his orgies.
Strauss-Kahn's arrival at the courthouse was disrupted by three topless protesters from radical feminist group Femen, who were detained by police.
Strauss-Kahn's chances of becoming French president were ruined over an unrelated sex scandal in New York.
The economist, known widely as DSK, faces up to 10 years in prison and a 1.5 million euro (£1.1 million) fine if convicted.
The 14 defendants are accused of operating a prostitution ring out of luxury hotels in Paris, Washington DC, Lille and Brussels.
The court has heard testimony from some of Strauss-Kahn's fellow defendants, who include a Belgian brothel owner, local businessmen, a police officer and hotel staff accused of organising sex parties for Strauss-Kahn's benefit.
Investigators have compiled hundreds of pages of evidence from prostitutes describing the orgies.
It is not illegal to pay for sex in France but it is against the law to solicit or to run a prostitution business.
Prostitutes questioned in the case said that between 2009 and 2011 - when the IMF chief was dealing with a global financial crisis - Strauss-Kahn was organising orgies at luxury hotels in Paris, at a restaurant in the French capital and also in Washington.
One of the prostitutes, called Mounia in court, testified that while she never discussed payment with Strauss-Kahn, everyone involved knew she was a prostitute. "For me it was clear that I was there as a prostitute," she said.
Strauss-Kahn told the court: "I had a very hectic life, with just a few outlets for recreation, and these sessions were part of that."
Adding that he believed the women to be "a group of friends", Strauss-Kahn said that if he had known they were prostitutes, "I would have totally stopped participating in these soirees".
Two of Strauss-Kahn's co-defendants told the court they had kept hidden from him the fact that they had hired prostitutes for the orgies.
"It was a secret between him and me," Fabrice Paszkowski told the court, referring to fellow co-defendant David Roquet.