Strauss-Kahn asks French court to lift gag order

LILLE, France Wed May 23, 2012 1:52pm EDT

Former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn (C) and Francois Pupponi (2ndR), Deputy Mayor of Sarcelles arrive at a polling station in the second round of the 2012 French presidential elections in Sarcelles May 6,Voting started in mainland France on Sunday in the runoff presidential elections. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn (C) and Francois Pupponi (2ndR), Deputy Mayor of Sarcelles arrive at a polling station in the second round of the 2012 French presidential elections in Sarcelles May 6,Voting started in mainland France on Sunday in the runoff presidential elections.

Credit: Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

LILLE, France (Reuters) - Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn asked a French court on Wednesday to lift a gagging order that prevents him from speaking to the media during a judicial investigation into his links with a suspected prostitution ring.

Strauss-Kahn is under investigation in France to establish whether he knew he was dealing with prostitutes and pimps when he attended sex parties in northern France, Paris and Washington in 2010 and 2011 allegedly organized by business acquaintances.

He denies knowing that the women at the parties were prostitutes or that there was any violence.

Public prosecutors widened the inquiry this week to include a possible gang rape charge after a prostitute told them Strauss-Kahn and friends forced her to have sex in a group when she came to Washington to meet him in December 2010.

The woman has not filed a formal complaint.

According to a judicial source, the ex-French finance minister visited a court in the northern city of Douai to seek a lifting of the gagging order and other restrictions that include a 100,000-euro bail bond and a ban on speaking to any plaintiffs in the case.

After a closed-door meeting, magistrates said they would deliver their decision on May 30.

"We argued that it (gagging order) was not part of measures outlined in legal texts and that it breached fundamental principles like freedom of speech," Richard Malka, one of Strauss-Kahn's lawyers, told Reuters.

Strauss-Kahn's career at the head of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund was cut short when he was arrested in New York in May 2011 on charges, since dropped, of attempting to rape a hotel maid.

After criminal charges were abandoned over concerns about the maid's credibility, she pressed ahead with a civil case. A New York judge rejected Strauss-Kahn's claim of diplomatic immunity earlier this month, allowing the case to move forward.

Strauss-Kahn was placed under formal investigation in March in the separate French case, which had led to the arrest of eight people, including two Lille businessmen and a police commissioner.

If Strauss-Kahn were found guilty on charges of "aggravated organized pimping", he could face up to 20 years in prison.

(Reporting by Pierre Savary in Lille and Thierry Leveque in Paris; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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