LONDON — Hundreds of students at Britain's Cambridge University have signed a petition against an invitation to disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn to address students, activists said.
Strauss-Kahn, who quit as head of the International Monetary Fund in May amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a New York hotel maid, is scheduled to speak at the Cambridge Union debating society on March 9.
But at least 362 students have signed a petition urging the society to drop the invitation to the French politician, who now faces a new scandal after he was questioned this week about a prostitution ring.
"To choose to give this man an opportunity to speak trivialises the experiences of women who bravely come forward and report rape and sexual assault," Ruth Graham, women's officer at the student union, told AFP.
"It legitimises Strauss-Kahn's role in public life at a time when he is yet again being questioned by the police."
But the debating society defended inviting DSK, as he is known in France, to give a speech on the global economy, saying it had been regularly asking him to come and speak on the topic since 2010.
"The reason he's been invited is because he's a fascinating figure and has exceptional knowledge in this field," its president Katie Lam told AFP.
"So I don't think it's inappropriate to have invited him. Speaking at the Union doesn't imply approval or endorsement, or indeed disapproval."
Strauss-Kahn was freed from French police custody on Thursday after two days of questioning about an alleged prostitution ring and faces a further grilling next month.
He also learned this week that the first court hearing in a US civil case, brought by Nafissatou Diallo, the maid who alleges that he sexually assaulted her in a New York hotel, will take place on March 15.
The 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn has also been accused by 32-year-old French writer Tristane Banon of attempting to rape her in 2003.
Prosecutors decided there was prima facie evidence of a sexual assault, but ruled that the statute of limitations had passed.
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