Duchess of Cambridge topless pictures: photographer investigated

An unnamed second photographer faces formal scrutiny under French invasion of privacy laws

A photographer suspected of taking topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge while she was on holiday in the south of France has been placed under formal investigation, according to AFP.

The unnamed photographer is the latest of several media figures to be investigated for invasion of privacy in France after pictures were published in September last year of Prince William and his wife sunbathing on a balcony in a private property in the south of France.

The editor of the French magazine Closer, Laurence Pieau, had already been placed under formal investigation earlier this month, Agence France Presse reported.

In April, the head of the publisher of the French edition of Closer magazine, named as Ernesto Mauri, and another photographer suspected of taking pictures of the holidaying royal couple were put under investigation, the last step in France before being charged.

The topless photos emerged last September, and most British outlets refused to publish them in the wake of the Leveson report. French Closer did publish them and St James’s Palace launched legal proceedings against the magazine, one of the first instances of a case like this involving the royal family in modern times. The complaint from St James’s Palace sparked a criminal investigation in France.

The Duke and Duchess launched criminal proceedings against the photographer under France’s strict privacy laws. A French court granted them an injunction in September preventing Closer from publishing further shots of Kate sunbathing topless. The pictures were apparently taken on the terrace of a guest house during a brief holiday in France last year.

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn to stand trial for pimping, French prosecutors say

Former IMF chief charged with aggravated pimping in connection with alleged prostitution ring at Carlton hotel in Lille

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, is to go on trial on charges of pimping in connection with an alleged prostitution ring at a luxury hotel in the northern French city of Lille

Magistrates in France decided on Fridayto press ahead with charging the former Socialist minister in spite of calls by the state prosecutor for the case to be dropped.

Strauss-Kahn, 64, a former French presidential candidate, has admitted attending the “libertine” parties and having sex with a number of women. However, he has always insisted he did not know that some of them were prostitutes.

The case, known as the Carlton affair after the luxury hotel where the orgies were said to have taken place, centres around allegations that businessmen and police officials in Lille operated a vice ring supplying women for sex parties.

This affair, which came to light in late 2011, is the last of a series of inquiries into Strauss-Kahn since his arrest in New York in May 2011 where he was accused of trying to rape a hotel maid.

The charges in the US were eventually dropped because of doubts over maid Nafissatou Diallo’s credibility after she was found to have lied on her immigration claim, but Strauss-Kahn was later forced to pay her substantial damages reported to be in the region of $6m( 3.9m).

Two subsequent cases against the former French finance minister have also been dropped. An allegation of sexual assault against writer Tristane Banon in Paris in 2003 did not result in criminal charges because it had passed the legal time limit. In October last year, French prosecutors decided to drop an inquiry into allegations of gang rape at a hotel in Washington after one of the women involved who had made the claim retracted her evidence.

The state prosecutor had recommended that the Carlton affair charges against Strauss-Kahn be dropped on the grounds of a lack of evidence.

Magistrates decided otherwise; they put aside a charge of “aggravated pimping as part of an organised gang”, but maintained the lesser charge of “aggravated pimping as part of a group”. He is facing trial along with 12 other defendants.

In France pimping can cover a wide range of crimes including aiding or encouraging prostitution. A trial is expected to take place next year. If convicted, Strauss-Kahn could face up to 10 years in prison and a 1.5m ( 860,000) fine.

The former IMF chief has vehemently denied all allegations against him and described them as “dangerous and malicious insinuations and extrapolations”.

“It will all come out publicly before the tribunal and everyone will realise that there is nothing in this case,” Henri Leclerc, one of Strauss Kahn’s lawyers said on Friday.

Leclerc said the legal team was “under no illusions” about the “relentlessness shown by the investigating magistrates” and claimed Strauss-Kahn was being targeted because of his high profile.

“This decision is based on an ideological and moral analysis, but certainly not on any legal grounds. We’re sending someone to court for nothing,” said the lawyer.

After an earlier hearing into the Carlton affair, Leclerc told the French radio station Europe 1 that Strauss-Kahn could not have known whether the women at the parties were prostitutes.

“As you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you’re not always dressed, and I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman,” Leclerc said.

Strauss-Kahn had been a frontrunner as the Socialist party’s candidate to become French president in last year’s election before his arrest in New York. He was forced to resign from his job as IMF chief and his third wife Anne Sinclair, a wealthy heiress and former television presenter, divorced him.

At the Cannes film festival in May, Strauss-Kahn was pictured with a new girlfriend, Moroccan-born Myriam L’Aouffir, 45, who works in the internet and social media department at France Television.

France ISP Free builds its own cellular network, offers free service to subscribers

The fact that French ISP Free just began offering its own cellular service is pretty nice, but the realization that it did so by building its very own prepaid network – rather than simply hopping on a dedicated cellular provider’s towers – is a noteworthy feat. Even more impressive, Free is offering the service, appropriately called Free Mobile, to subscribers at a price that matches the name of the company. Sure, you’re not getting a ton of minutes with the basic free plan (60 minutes and 60 SMS / MMS messages), but you can get a load more (unlimited calls and texts, 3GB of data and unlimited access to the ISP’s WiFi hotspots) for 15.99. If you’re not a subscriber, fear not: you can grab the basic plan for 2 / month or the advanced option for 20. Free Mobile is still in the process of building out the network, which means that customers may find themselves occasionally roaming on Orange for a while. But hey, you can’t go wrong with free, eh? Check out this source to see the selection of phones available for purchase.

Mali conflict: French troops retake Kidal airport without resistance

France’s foreign minister promises troops will depart quickly after retaking last major city controlled by Islamist militia

French forces have taken control of the airport in the Malian town of Kidal, the last remaining urban stronghold of Islamists in the north, as France’s foreign minister vowed troops would depart from Mali “quickly”.

Kidal, 1,500km from the capital Bamako and towards the Algerian border, would be the last of northern Mali’s major towns to be retaken by French-led forces after they reached Gao and Timbuktu earlier this week in a campaign to drive out al-Qaida-linked Islamists.

The military operation in Kidal itself was “ongoing” on Wednesday, according to French armed forces spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard in Paris. The airport was secured on Tuesday night by French troops.

“They arrived late last night and they deployed in four planes and some helicopters,” said Haminy Belco Maiga, president of the regional assembly of Kidal.

“Afterwards they took the airport and then entered the town, and there was no combat,” said Maiga, who had been in touch with people in the town by satellite phone as all the normal telephone networks were down. “The French are patrolling the town and two helicopters are patrolling overhead.” Kidal is the capital of the desert region of the same name, to which Islamist fighters are believed to have retreated during nearly three weeks of French airstrikes and an advance by hundreds of ground troops.

Tuareg rebels of the Mouvement National de Liberation de l’Azawad (MNLA), who want greater autonomy for the desert north, said this week that they had taken control of Kidal after Islamists abandoned the town.

The MNLA, which fought alongside the Islamists before being sidelined by them in mid-2012, was not immediately available for comment on the French deployment.

Earlier this week, after French and Malian troops secured Timbuktu, French president Fran ois Hollande said: “We’re winning this battle, and when I say ‘we’, I mean the Malian army, the Africans backed by the French.”

France, which has 3,500 troops on the ground, as well as fighter planes and helicopters in the country, is cautious about declaring victory, knowing that Islamists who have retreated to desert hideouts could stage comebacks that would be difficult to contain for Mali’s weak army. But France has insisted on the rapid implementation of a European training programme for the Malian army as well as the deployment of a joint African force which will eventually assume control of operations.

“Now it’s up to African countries to take over,” France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told Le Parisien on Wednesday. “We decided to put the means in – men and supplies – to make the mission succeed and hit hard. But the French aspect was never expected to be maintained. We will leave quickly.”