The New York Times reported Thursday that Tristane Banon, the French journalist who has accused disgraced ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her back in 2003, was questioned jointly with DSK at a Paris police station for over two hours. This, of course, is on the heels of the high-profile rape allegations against DSK made by a hotel maid in the U.S. According to the Times, "The joint questioning, a normal part of sexual assault cases in France, could represent a last legal step for prosecutors before either bringing formal charges, or dropping the case." How does this joint questioning work?
Cécile Dehesdin, a reporter at Slate's French sister site, Slate.fr, says that this joint questioning isn't mandatory. If the accused rapist denies the charges, according to a French organization for women devoted to helping rape victims, the alleged victim can accept the joint questioning, refuse it outright, or ask that the face-to-face happen, not with the police, but with the judge who will eventually be in charge of investigating the case. In France, unlike in the U.S., the judge (juge d'instruction) is in charge of investigating for both the alleged victim and the accused. DSK has called Banon's accusations of rape "imaginary and slanderous" in a recent interview. For her part, Banon has always said she relished the idea of facing DSK in person:
The police asked me if i'd agree to a face to face, of course I said yes. I'd like him to be facing me and telling me to my face that those are imaginary facts. I'd like to see him try and say that.
In this joint questioing, Dehesdin points out, the victim and alleged attacker are in the same room, but they don't address each other directly. They just answer the police or judge's questions. Whoever has conducted the questioning gives the information to the district attorney, who then decides if there is enough evidence to move forward with the case (updated to add: if the juge d'instruction has done the questioning, he doesn't need permission from the DA to pursue the case).
Even if the D.A. decides not to pursue the case, Banon has some recourse. Since she was questioned by police, she could refile the criminal complaint along with a civil complaint, and at that point the juge d'instruction would have to investigate. According to press reports in France, DSK did admit that he made a pass at her.