Strauss-Kahn is accused of “aggravated pimping” in connection with a series of “libertine evenings” in hotels in the three cities over three years and could face up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine of up to 1.5 million euros.
Three other defendants are accused of procuring sexual partners or otherwise assisting in organising the orgies.
Accused of being the “central pivot” and sometimes the “sole beneficiary of these sexual encounters”, Strauss-Kahn denied knowing that the women were prostitutes.
The case drawn up against him gave the impression of “frenetic activity in which that was all anyone did”, he said in the dock on Tuesday morning. “There wasn’t this unrestrained activity that the order gives the impression of.”
The investigators “only” mention a dozen such events in three years, ie four per year, he pointed out.
His lawyers claim the prosecution is politically, ideologically and morally motivated.
Some of the women have filed civil cases and spoken of “butchery”, “brutality” and being forced to submit to some sexual practises against their will.
“It was his smile that stuck with me from the beginning to the end, he seemed pleased with what he was doing,” one of them, Mounia, told the court on Monday, although she confirmed that no money changed hands and no-one mentioned prostitution during the evening.
Three members of the Femen feminist group appeared topless and threw themselves on Strauss-Kahn’s car as he arrived at the court, shouting “Pimps, clients declared guilty!” on Tuesday morning and were dragged off by police.
Strauss-Kahn’s co-accused are his friend Fabrice Paszkowski, businessman David Roquet and police officer Jean-Christophe Lagarde.
Anti-prostitution campaigners demonstrated in Paris on Tuesday morning to urge the Senate to proceed with the examination of a bill that would penalise clients and pimps but not prostitutes.
Strauss-Kahn’s career at the International Monetary Fund and hopes of becoming the Socialist Party’s candidate for French president came to an end when he was arrested over the alleged sexual assault of a chambermaid at a Sofitel hotel in New York.