Lille (France), Feb 10: Disgraced former International Monetary Fund boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn told a French court on Tuesday that he was unaware that women who participated in orgies at luxury hotels in Paris and Washington DC were prostitutes.
The 65-year-old and 13 co-defendants are on trial in this northern French city, accused of aggravated pimping in connection with a sex ring centered on the Hotel Carlton in Lille.
In his first testimony since the trial began February 2, Strauss-Kahn reaffirmed his long-standing defence that he did not know of the "prostitutional character" of the women who took part in his orgies.
Strauss-Kahn's arrival at the courthouse was disrupted by three topless protesters from the provocative group Femen, who were detained by police. Strauss-Kahn's chances of becoming French president were ruined over a separate sex scandal in New York.
The economist, known widely as DSK, faces up to 10 years in prison and a 1.5 million-euro (USD 1.7 million) fine if convicted. Strauss-Kahn and the 13 other defendants are accused of operating a prostitution ring out of luxury hotels in Paris, Washington DC, Lille and Brussels.
The court has so far heard testimony from some of Strauss-Kahn's fellow defendants, who include a Belgian brothel owner, local businessmen, a police officer and hotel staff accused of organising sex parties for Strauss-Kahn's benefit.
Investigators have compiled hundreds of pages of testimony from prostitutes describing the orgies.