French TV shows Strauss-Kahn hotel videos

Surveillance videos aired publicly for the first time show former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn leisurely checking out of a New York hotel where he was accused of sexually assaulting a chambermaid, and his accuser appearing to act out the alleged attack.

It was not immediately clear how France's BFM television acquired the minutes-long segments.

The clips were the basis of recent news reports suggesting French presidential hopeful Mr Strauss-Kahn might have been the target of a political plot but had not previously been broadcast publicly.

Mr Strauss-Kahn, 62, was initially charged with attempted rape after hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo said he attacked her and forced her to perform a sex act.

New York prosecutors dropped the charges after they said they lost confidence in Ms Diallo, who has nevertheless filed a civil case.

In the clips, Mr Strauss-Kahn exits a lift, pays his bill and gets in a cab. BFM said those images were filmed about 20 minutes after the alleged assault on May 14. Mr Strauss-Kahn, wearing a dark coat and wheeling a suitcase, does not appear hurried or nervous.

A separate segment BFM said was filmed about 40 minutes after the alleged attack shows Ms Diallo slumped against a wall in a corridor reserved for hotel staff. The images are heavily pixellated and it is impossible to make out the expression on her face.

At one point she appears to act out the attack, grabbing her own breast and pursuing a colleague, her arms outstretched.

Ms Diallo's lawyers insisted the images strengthened her case against Mr Strauss-Kahn.

"This video shows actions of a victim, not someone who's part of some plot to bring down a man that she had never seen before in her life," lawyer Kenneth Thompson told a news conference, where the images were played.

None of the clips shows either Mr Strauss-Kahn or Ms Diallo emerging from the suite in the Sofitel hotel where the attack allegedly took place because, BFM explained, there are no surveillance cameras on that floor.

The BFM clips broadcast do, however, include a brief sequence in which two Sofitel employees hug one another and do a joyful little dance as they confer in a dark basement corridor. Recent news reports pointed to the dance as evidence of an alleged political plot against Mr Strauss-Kahn.

In a statement yesterday, Sofitel's parent company, French hotel group Accor, said: "The idea that these videos prove Accor's involvement in a conspiracy is nonsense."

The two staffers in the video told an Accor lawyer they had "no knowledge of the political status of Dominique Strauss-Kahn before this tape excerpt", the statement said. "They also reaffirmed that they could not remember exactly the reasons for this 'congratulatory action'" or dance.

"Despite malicious and unfounded allegations, it is not for Accor to take sides and/or comment on any aspect of this matter," the statement added.

"Accor was not favourable to public dissemination of these video sequences, which unnecessarily expose members of the Sofitel New York staff to the curiosity of the media."

Mr Strauss-Kahn's lawyer, William Taylor, said the Sofitel's explanation was "not persuasive".

"We are extremely troubled that the two hotel personnel were caught on film embracing and dancing immediately after a 911 call was made to the New York City Police," Mr Taylor said.

French government officials have ridiculed the theory of a plot - first published late last month in The New York Review of Books - and interior minister Claude Gueant dismissed the notion as a "fantasy".

The charges badly damaged Mr Strauss-Kahn's reputation and other scandals - including allegations by a French writer that he sexually assaulted her during a 2003 interview and claims that he was linked to a suspected hotel prostitution ring - have effectively ended his political career.

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