A New York judge has said a hotel maid's legal case, claiming that former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn had sexually assaulted her, can move forward to a trial.

Douglas McKeon, Bronx Supreme Court Justice, on Tuesday rejected Strauss-Kahn's argument that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity at the time of the May 14 encounter with Nafissatou Diallo.

Strauss-Kahn says lawyers argued that he should be immune from the civil legal case, which was filed about three months later.

That "may seem like an unfair result to some, but it's the result the law compels", Strauss-Kahn attorney lawyer Amit P Mehta said at a hearing in March.

The lawyers pointed to a 1947 United Nations agreement that afforded the privilege to heads of "specialised agencies", including the IMF.

Although the United States did not sign that agreement, Strauss-Kahn's attorneys said it had gained such broad acceptance elsewhere that it had become what was known as "customary international law".

'Extremely pleased'

Diallo accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex, while Strauss Kahn has said the incident was consensual.

The scandal, which made headlines around the world, scuttled Strauss Kahn's expected bid for the French presidency.

Prosecutors dropped related criminal charges last year, saying they were no longer convinced of Diallo's credibility after she made several changes in her account of what she did in the moments after the incident.

One of Diallo's lawyers, Douglas Wigdor, said in a statement that they were "extremely pleased" with the ruling.
"We have said all along that Strauss Kahn's desperate plea for immunity was a tactic designed to delay these proceedings and we now look forward to holding him accountable for the brutal sexual assault that he committed," he said.

After Strauss-Kahn's arrest in New York, a French writer came forward to say Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during a 2003 interview.

Paris prosecutors said that accusation was too old to try, but French authorities have pursued an unrelated allegation that he was involved in a hotel prostitution ring including prominent city figures and police in Lille.

In March, he was handed preliminary charges, which mean authorities have reason to believe a crime was committed but allow more time for investigation.

His French lawyer said the married Strauss-Kahn engaged in "libertine" acts, but did nothing legally wrong and was being unfairly targeted for his extramarital sex life.

Source: Agencies