*NEWSBITES

LONDON - The euro zone crisis, the future of the global economy, French presidential elections. Such is the ambitious program of the event organized by the Cambridge Union Society, the British university's prestigious debate society. Just one small detail: the main speaker for the March 9 event happens to be named, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The former head of the International Monetary Fund is currently under investigation in France over an alleged prostitution ring, which follows last year's case in New York where DSK was charged with sexual assault of a hotel maid, before charges were dropped by the prosecutor.

The debate society speaking engagement has outraged female members of the Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU), who have launched a "Disinvite DSK" campaign. A petition opposing Strauss-Kahn's appearance has already been signed by more than 800 people.

Douglas H. Wigdor, the American lawyer of Nafissatou Diallo, the maid who claims she was sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn, is scheduled to join a protest against the participation of the former French Finance Minister, who until his arrest in New York last spring was the frontrunner to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 presidential election.

The Cambridge’s Women’s Campaign also noted that the scheduled event is not a debate, as is traditionally the case, but rather consists a conference followed by a Q&A session. They say this would give DSK a platform to speak on the economy without having to answer the sexual allegations against him.

The University justified the invitation by saying that the former head of the IMF was “exceptionally well qualified to speak on some of the greatest headline topics of the world in 2012.”

Cambridge’s debate circle is known for inviting controversial celebrities, like France’s extreme-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Dalai Lama and members of the then apartheid regime in South Africa.

Trying to cope with the influx of requests, the University of Cambridge decided to distribute tickets to the talk by lottery. The event is sold out.

Read more from Le Monde in French. Original article by Marc Roche

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