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LILLE, France (Reuters) - Lawyers for the four prostitutes who participated in sex parties organized for Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on Monday they were giving up their claim of damages, saying it would be too hard to prove the pimping charge against the former IMF head.
Strauss-Kahn, 65, is accused of instigating parties he knew involved prostitutes between 2008-2011 in the French city of Lille as well as in Brussels, Paris and Washington.
The announcement was a surprise move on the first day of the final week of trial and suggests that Strauss-Kahn's defense - that he had no idea that the women at the parties were prostitutes - may have been effective.
The case will nevertheless continue against Strauss-Kahn and 13 other defendants, and the women will remain civil parties in the criminal case, lawyer Gerald Laporte told Reuters.
Strauss-Kahn is charged with pimping, or "procuring with aggravating circumstances", because investigating magistrates say he took a principal role in planning the parties, and that he knew the women who attended them were prostitutes.
"The prostitutes have renounced the request of damages and interest against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, reckoning that all the elements making up the crime of aggravated procuring have not been met," Laporte, the women's lawyer, told Reuters.
Strauss-Kahn, Laporte said, "didn't give up" during questioning by judges, repeatedly denying knowledge that the women were prostitutes.
Strauss-Kahn was tipped to become French president before being accused of sexual assault by a New York hotel chambermaid in 2011. U.S. criminal charges were subsequently dropped, and the allegations that he participated in a French sex ring centered in the northern French city of Lille emerged later.
If convicted, Strauss-Kahn faces 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 1.5 million euros ($1.70 million).
Reporting by Chine Labbe and Pierre Savary; Writing by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Alison Williams