The verdict came four years after sex assault accusations by a New York hotel maid ended his political ambitions and forced him to step down as head of the International Monetary Fund.

Strauss-Kahn's acquittal by a court in the northern city of Lille on charges of procuring prostitutes -- exposing him to the risk of a 10-year jail sentence -- marked the final episode of legal battle on both sides of the Atlantic.

The 66-year-old, who settled financially with Sofitel maid Nafissatou Diallo after New York prosecutors abandoned criminal charges in 2011, stood accused in France of instigating the organisation of orgies with prostitutes.

"He cannot be attributed the role of instigator," judge Bernard Lemaire said when reading out a verdict in the presence of Strauss-Kahn and 13 others.

Strauss-Kahn and his lawyers had argued that he has an appetite for rough sex but was not aware that women he frolicked with at parties and hotels in Paris, Lille and Washington, mostly while in the powerful IMF post, were prostitutes.

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