Over the objections of US prosecutors, a judge has agreed to free former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn from jail on one million US dollars (£600,000) bail on the condition he be confined to a New York apartment under armed guard while he awaits trial on attempted-rape charges.
The 62-year-old French banker and diplomat briefly wore an expression of relief after Supreme Court Justice Michael J Obus announced his decision in a packed courtroom. Later, Strauss-Kahn blew a kiss toward his wife.
The ruling did not immediately free Strauss-Kahn from the city's bleak Rikers Island jail. Authorities need time to review the security arrangements involved in his house arrest, which lawyers said would be at an apartment rented by his wife.
The lawyer who represented Strauss-Kahn at the hearing, William Taylor, called the ruling "a great relief for the family".
"He's going back to Rikers tonight and we expect him to be released tomorrow," he said.
Strauss-Kahn will not only have to post the full one million US dollars but will also have to take out a five million US dollars insurance bond. A trial date was not immediately set.
The banker is accused of attacking a 32-year-old housekeeper on Saturday at his 3,000-dollar-a-night hotel suite. The West African immigrant told police that he chased her down a hallway, forced her to perform oral sex and tried to remove her stockings.
The bail decision came less than a day after Strauss-Kahn resigned as managing director of the International Monetary Fund, the powerful organisation that makes emergency loans to countries in financial crisis.
In his resignation letter, he denied the allegations against him but said he would quit in order to "protect this institution which I have served with honour and devotion" and to "devote all my strength, all my time and all my energy to proving my innocence".