Immunity claim at center of DSK hearing

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After criminal sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn dissolved last year in prosecutors' doubts about his accuser's reliability, she vowed to get her day in another court.

The hotel maid's civil case against the former International Monetary Fund chief is approaching an important point, with a hearing set this week on Strauss-Kahn's claim that diplomatic immunity should insulate him from the lawsuit.

The hearing, the first in the case, isn't intended to weigh the essence of housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo's allegation that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her when she arrived to clean his luxury suite last May. The accusation put Strauss-Kahn, then a potential French presidential candidate, in jail for nearly a week and sent his political career into a tailspin of sexual scandal.

Rather, Wednesday's hearing is likely to revolve around the complex laws that shield diplomats from prosecution and lawsuits in their host countries. And Strauss-Kahn's arguments are raising some novel questions about the scope of those laws, experts say.

Neither Diallo, 33, nor Strauss-Kahn, 62, is expected to attend the hearing in a Bronx state court. It's unclear when a judge will decide whether the case should be allowed to go forward toward a trial, which Diallo's lawyers say she eagerly awaits.

"It didn't happen with the DA, but we intend to vindicate Ms. Diallo's rights," one of her lawyers, Kenneth P. Thompson, said.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers declined to comment. They've previously slammed the suit as an attempt to squeeze money out of him.

Then overseeing the IMF, Strauss-Kahn was in New York to visit his daughter when Diallo said he attacked her.

The Manhattan district attorney's office dropped the case in August, saying prosecutors couldn't proceed on the word of a woman who had lied about her background and wavered about her actions right after the alleged attack. Diallo is adamant that she was truthful about the encounter.

When police arrested him, Strauss-Kahn declared that he had diplomatic immunity, according to a police account of his statements. But the IMF soon said he didn't because he was in New York on personal business.

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