Strauss-Kahn wins sex case bail

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn was set for release on bail Friday, allowing the once powerful IMF chief to be reunited with his family for the first time since his arrest on sex assault charges.

Judge Michael Obus in New York state court ordered Strauss-Kahn to be released as early as Friday on condition he put up $1 million cash bail and a $5 million bond, wear an electronic ankle bracelet, surrender all travel documents and live under 24-hour house arrest.

The break for the embattled French politician, who has resigned his post as the head of the International Monetary Fund, meant he will leave the tough surroundings of Rikers Island jail and rejoin his wife Anne Sinclair and daughter Camille, who were both in court Thursday.

But in a setback for Strauss-Kahn, 62, the court heard that a grand jury has voted to indict him on all seven sex crime charges related to his alleged attempt to rape a maid at Manhattan's luxury Sofitel hotel on Saturday.

That means his case will go to trial unless he pleads guilty.

"Under American law, these are extremely serious charges," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance told reporters after the hearing.

Strauss-Kahn, until now seen as a serious contender as the next president of France, will have to spend one more night at Rikers pending the signing of the bail package.

He has been kept in an isolation cell in the complex since the judge at an initial hearing after his arrest ruled him likely to try to flee the country. France does not extradite citizens to the United States.

Meanwhile, the scandal and his resignation has led to growing jockeying around the world for a replacement IMF chief, just as the international organization is steering delicate negotiations on the eurozone debt crisis.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde had been a front-runner to succeed him. But India's own IMF director on Thursday said the institution needs to revamp how it chooses it managing director, after decades of as "consensus" that let Europeans monopolize the top position.

Strauss-Kahn, facing up to 74 years prison if convicted on all charges, denies the alleged assault against the maid, a 32-year-old from Guinea. He has not yet entered a formal not guilty plea, but that would likely come at his next court appearance on June 6, when the grand jury indictment against him is unsealed.

At Thursday's hearing, hordes of journalists besieged the courthouse and packed into the courtroom where Strauss-Kahn exchanged several quick looks with his wealthy, American-born wife, French television journalist Sinclair.

Wearing a clean shirt and suit, without a tie, Strauss-Kahn blew a kiss to his wife, who responded in kind. During attorneys' arguments, Sinclair sat holding hands with Strauss-Kahn's daughter by another marriage, Camille.

Prosecutors said the Frenchman remained a flight risk and should await trial behind bars.

The prosecution contends that Strauss-Kahn was seen rushing from his hotel room on Saturday and later detained aboard an Air France flight minutes before take-off from JFK airport.

"The proof against him is substantial. It continues to grow every day," Assistant District Attorney John McConnell said.

Defense lawyer William Taylor urged the judge to grant Strauss-Kahn bail, assuring the court that the veteran French politician was an "honorable man."

The judge opted for bail with strict conditions. Strauss-Kahn will live in 24-hour confinement in a New York apartment, with video cameras and an armed security guard posted with him.

McConnell said it would cost "in excess of $200,000 a month" to pay for the tight security to meet the bail conditions.

"We want to express our pleasure that the judge has made this decision," Taylor told journalists after the hearing.

But Jeff Shapiro, a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn's accuser, said his client, who has so far not been identified, was "alarmed" at the prospect of her alleged attacker leaving jail.

"The idea that this man would somehow or another be on the streets and free, I'm sure it would cause her a great deal of concern," he told CNN Wednesday. "She's very concerned about her security."

She alleges that Strauss-Kahn groped and mauled her in his room in the posh Sofitel hotel in Times Square and forcibly tried to have oral sex with her. She testified before the grand jury that ultimately decided to send the case to trial.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyer Benjamin Brafman said earlier this week the evidence "will not be consistent with a forcible encounter."

© 2011 AFP

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