Two arrested as students object to Strauss-Kahn speech

Demonstrations mark former IMF chief’s controversial visit to Cambridge Union

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The Independent Online

Two people were arrested yesterday at Cambridge University as students daubed walls with graffiti in protest at the appearance of Dominique Strauss-Kahn to address the student's union. The former IMF chief faces a civil case in the US over allegations he sexually assaulted a hotel maid.

Students chalked "women deserve better", "DSK die" and "end rape" on walls early yesterday morning as Mr Strauss-Kahn prepared to give his talk. The student Women's Campaign and other students organised protests in the afternoon and there were scuffles as he was escorted into the building.

Journalists were banned from the Cambridge Union Society building where he spoke about world economics but he was challenged by one student during a question session to explain intimate injuries alleged to have been suffered by the hotel worker in the US. He replied that he had been acquitted of sexual assault.

Douglas Wigdor, the lawyer for Nafissatou Diallo, who brought the civil case against Mr Strauss-Kahn, condemned the decision to invite him to address a crowd of students.

"We don't want to be part of a publicity campaign for Strauss-Kahn when there are still civil proceedings ongoing," said Ruth Graham, of Cambridge University Student Union Women's Campaign. She added: "He has admitted 'sexual aggression' against Tristane Banon and we feel that is reason enough not to have him as a guest. He has been invited to speak on his own terms: he has been given a platform to talk about the economy and he has been billed as an expert in the field when most people link his name with something altogether less erudite," she said.

More than 750 students signed a petition calling for the withdrawal of the invitation to Mr Strauss-Kahn.

Students said they felt that the appearance of a man who was forced to resign his post after the emergence of the sexual assault allegations – just one day after International Women's Day – represented a "bitter irony". Although criminal charges were dropped in the case of Nafissatou Diallo, Mr Strauss-Kahn has admitted that his "uninhibited sex life" has ruined his career. Once a frontrunner to oppose French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the forthcoming French elections, his challenge ended amid lurid allegations.

Speaking in December, he said: "Nothing would have happened if I hadn't had this consensual, but stupid relationship with Nafissatou Diallo. That day, I opened the door to all the other affairs." Mr Strauss-Kahn denies assault.

Addressing students at the University yesterday, Mr Wigdor claimed that in his view the original criminal investigation into the Strauss-Kahn case was not properly conducted for "political reasons". He described injuries allegedly caused to Ms Diallo during the encounter with Mr Strauss-Kahn and said that "Cambridge students deserve to hear answers to these questions".

Mr Wigdor also read a speech on behalf of Ms Diallo, in which she said that the action of the Cambridge students had encouraged her to keep fighting the case against Strauss-Kahn.

Cambridgeshire police said that a 20-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage as part of the protests yesterday morning.