The accusations of sexual assault against IMF head and potential French presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn sent shockwaves through French politics on Sunday.
Socialist leader Martine Aubry rallied behind the 62-year-old former finance minister, stressing he is innocent until proven guilty.
“Like everyone, I am totally amazed but I urge that we wait for all the facts. We must respect the presumption of innocence,” Aubry told reporters.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who served under Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, has been widely tipped as the left’s only credible challenger to topple President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s elections.
In the French capital, Parisians reacted with horror to news of his arrest.
“He is someone who could give something to France,” said one man. “We need people like him, especially on the left. I’m waiting now for some proof. It’s too early to make a judgement.”
Another Parisian man raised the possibility of a conspiracy orchestrated by right-wing French politicians.
“It is a bit strange that this affair occurs a few months before the elections. Maybe we should ask ourselves if it is a setup?”
Strauss-Kahn, who has been widely lauded for his leadership of the IMF, faces three charges including attempted rape relating to an incident with a New York hotel maid.
He was set to appear in court later on Sunday.