Strauss-Kahn released without bail, case in doubt

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released without bail on Friday after a dramatic court hearing...

IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn (C) is taken out of a police station in New York on May 15, 2011 after he was charged with attempting to rape. Picture: AFP.

Former IMF chief

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released without bail on Friday after a

dramatic court hearing where the sexual assault case against him

appeared to shift in his favour.

Strauss-Kahn, who smiled as he

walked out of court, still faces felony charges of attempted rape and

sexual assault over the alleged attack on a hotel maid in New York. His

lawyers said they will seek to have the charges dismissed but the judge

said prosecutors were continuing to investigate.

The

turnabout could upend French politics. Strauss-Kahn, 62, was a strong

candidate for the 2012 French presidential election until his May 14

arrest.

At a hearing to seek

changes to his bail conditions, prosecutors said the credibility of the

woman at the centre of the case had been thrown into question.

As

a result, the court agreed to let Strauss-Kahn be freed and his bail

and bond returned. He agreed to return to court as needed, including for

a July 18 hearing.

"I understand

that the circumstances of this case have changed substantially and I

agree the risk that he would not be here has receded quite a bit. I

release Mr. Strauss-Kahn at his own recognizance," Justice Michael Obus

told the court.

Strauss-Kahn's

arrest forced his resignation from the International Monetary Fund and

appeared to end his presidential hopes, weeks before he had planned to

declare his candidacy.

His

supporters in the French Socialist party voiced delight at the apparent

reversal and some said they hoped he might re-enter the 2012

presidential race.

'EXTENSIVE INVESTIGATION'

The

case has hinged on the accuser, a 32-year-old Guinean immigrant who

cleaned the $3,000 (1,867.53 pounds)-a-night suite at the Sofitel hotel

in Manhattan where Strauss-Kahn was staying.

Prosecutors

said at the hearing their change of view on the maid's credibility

followed "an extensive investigation" but they gave no details.

The

New York Times quoted two well-placed law enforcement officials as

saying prosecutors found issues with the accuser's asylum application

and possible links to criminal activities, including drug dealing and

money laundering.

They also

discovered the woman made a phone call to an incarcerated man within a

day of her encounter with Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the

possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him, the paper said.

The

conversation was recorded. The man was among a number of people who had

made multiple cash deposits, totalling around $100,000, into the

woman's bank account over the last two years, The New York Times said.

The woman's brother told Reuters in Guinea that she was the victim of a smear campaign.

Her

lawyer said after the hearing that his client's story had never wavered

and Strauss-Kahn's assertion that she had consensual sex with him was a

lie.