France riveted as Strauss-Kahn case in doubt

France riveted as Strauss-Kahn case in doubt

France's Socialist Party was electrified Friday by revelations that the rape case against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was in jeopardy, DPA reported.

The New York Times reported Friday that the case hung in the balance following questions over the credibility of the alleged victim, a 32-year-old hotel maid.

At a hastily scheduled court hearing in New York later Friday, Strauss-Kahn's lawyers were expected to request that the economist be released from house arrest, amid speculation that the charges against him could be downgraded or even dropped.

Leading Socialists reacted excitedly to the news.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, had been tipped to represent the party in next year's presidential election. All polls conducted before his arrest had showed him easily defeating incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy if he ran.

Former Socialist party leader Francois Hollande, who has since emerged as the front-runner for president, said he hoped that "all the charges that have weighed so painfully, so cruelly on him (Strauss-Kahn)" would be dropped on Friday.

"It would be a deliverance for him, his family and his loved ones," Hollande said.

Current party leader Martine Aubry, who is also seeking the Socialist nomination for president, reacted more cautiously, saying she hoped the US justice would "establish all the truth" at the hearing scheduled for 11:30 am (1530 GMT).

The Times report has thrown the Socialists' primary process into flux.

Nominations to the party primaries in October opened on Tuesday. Candidates have until July 13 to put their names forward.

Strauss-Kahn had been assumed to be out of the race following his indictment over an alleged encounter in his suite at the Sofitel hotel on May 14.

One senior party member, Michele Sabban, called for the primary process to be suspended until Strauss-Kahn had had a chance to give his side of the story. Citing two unnamed, well-placed law enforcement officials the Times reported that prosecution investigators have discovered inconsistencies in what Strauss-Kahn's accuser told them about herself.

They had also turned up connections between her and drug dealers and unexplained money transfers in her bank account, the report said.

French media were gripped by the story, which was picked up immediately by their online editions.

The conservative Le Figaro daily declared it came as a "thunderbolt for France's political class."

The leftist Liberation found the latest twist in the saga "theatrical". One of the over 1600 readers who commented on the story wanted to know: "Who set up DSK?".

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