LILLE, France (AFP) - A French prosecutor on Tuesday called for Dominique Strauss-Kahn to be acquitted of pimping charges in a trial which has seen lurid details of the former IMF chief's sex life exposed in court.
"Neither the judicial enquiry nor the hearing have established that Mr Strauss-Kahn is guilty" of procuring prostitutes for sex parties he attended in Paris, Brussels and Washington, said prosecutor Frederic Fevre.
The 65-year-old who was once tipped for the French presidency has denied knowing the women at the orgies were prostitutes, or that he organised for them to be there, which could have landed him in jail for up to 10 years for pimping.
Even before the trial, Fevre said he was not convinced there was a strong case against the former political heavyweight and asked for the charges to be dropped. However he was overruled by investigative judges who sent the case to trial.
Strauss-Kahn sat with his arms crossed as Fevre called for the court to find him not guilty.
The prosecutor argued that the economist's notoriety "should not be a presumption of guilt".
"Our legal system must take pride in never convicting someone if there is any doubt. I therefore request his acquittal, pure and simple," said Fevre.
In another boost for Strauss-Kahn, two ex-prostitutes who attended the orgies dropped a civil lawsuit against him, with lawyers saying they lacked enough proof to win the case.
The trial was a further humiliation for Strauss-Kahn four years after his high-flying career and presidential prospects were torpedoed by accusations of sexual assault by a New York hotel maid in May 2011, a case later settled in a civil suit.
He was charged with pimping shortly after the New York scandal when his name cropped up in a probe into a prostitution ring in northern France, which provided sex workers for orgies he attended.
Strauss-Kahn found himself in the dock alongside a colourful cast of characters including a senior police officer and brothel owner Dominique Alderweireld who is known as "Dodo the Pimp".
Many of them form part of a ring known as the "Carlton Affair" in which managers of the luxury Lille hotel set up prostitutes with well-connected locals.
"He was the boss," Fevre said of Alderweireld who is accused of sending prostitutes from Belgium to the parties just over the border.
Fevre requested a sentence of one year in jail and a fine of 10,000 euros ($11,000) against him.
Dodo separately provided prostitutes to friends of Strauss-Kahn who brought them to the sex parties. The two businessmen maintain they kept it secret from him that the women were paid.
Fevre asked for a series of suspended sentences and stiff fines ranging from 2,500 ($2,800) to 20,000 euros for the 13 other accused.
"This was not a mafia network that was dismantled," said Fevre, but a group of friends trying to "satisfy egos, ambitions and quite simply, physical desires".
It remains to be seen whether the court will follow the prosecutor's recommendation to acquit Strauss-Kahn in a trial which has seen the most intimate details of his often rough sexual tastes bared to the world.
The man known in France as DSK has admitted to being a libertine, and taking part in group sex, but lashed out at the court for focusing on his morals.
The court in the northern city of Lille heard sordid details from several prostitutes of how he sodomised them, as lawyers attempted to prove a level of sexual degradation that he would only expect from a prostitute.
"I experienced a penetration without my permission. If I was a libertine, I would at least have been asked if I wanted to do that," said a woman nicknamed Jade, admitting that she never actually refused the act.
Strauss-Kahn said he did not realise she objected and was "sorry" she experienced it that way, but lost his patience as the topic came up time and time again.
He said people were free to disagree with his proclivities, but that he was not on trial for "deviant sexual practices".
Jade also told the court how Strauss-Kahn took her to visit the IMF headquarters in Washington in January 2010.
He argued in court last week that the visit proves he did not think she was a prostitute, and that he was too busy "saving the world" from an unprecedented financial crisis to risk taking a call-girl to his workplace.