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The former International Monetary Fund head charged with trying to rape a Manhattan hotel maid formally said he was innocent of the charges Monday in his first court appearance in the case in two weeks.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty in a strong voice at the brief proceeding, standing between his defense team as his wife, journalist Anne Sinclair, watched.

State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus went through the formality of telling Strauss-Kahn he needed to appear in court and had a right to be present at his trial, to which the economist said "yes."

The French diplomat appeared in court for the first time since he was released on $6 million in cash bail and bond last month. He has been under house arrest that includes 24-hour monitors and armed guards, first in a downtown Manhattan apartment and now in a deluxe, $50,000-a-month Tribeca town house.

About 50 hotel workers bused in by their union gathered outside the courthouse to jeer Strauss-Kahn, many wearing their work uniforms. They shouted "shame on you" as he arrived, and again as he left in a black sport-utility vehicle.


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