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Dominique Strauss-Kahn, his wife by his side, walked to a Manhattan courtroom through shouting protesters carrying signs that read: "Put the rapist on trial — not the victim."

Just hours later, the French diplomat was a free man — his attempted rape case formally dismissed.

The former International Monetary Fund leader can leave the United States after he's handed back his passport — which could happen as soon as Wednesday — but he will return to France to face an uncertain future that includes another investigation into an alleged sexual assault.

"I can't wait to get back to my country, but there are some things I have to do first," he said in French outside the posh Tribeca town home where he was kept under house arrest.

The New York case was dismissed Tuesday after prosecutors said they no longer trusted the hotel maid who accused him of attacking her in his luxury suite on May 14. Though evidence showed Strauss-Kahn had a sexual encounter with Nafissatou Diallo, prosecutors said the accuser was not credible because of lies she has told, including an earlier false rape claim.

But an investigation continues in France into claims by novelist Tristane Banon, who said Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2002. She recently filed a new criminal complaint. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have called her account "imaginary."

And in New York, Strauss-Kahn still faces a lawsuit Diallo filed against him. Her attorneys said they would aggressively litigate the civil case — but it could take two years before it gets to trial.


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