Berlusconi to face trial in April over prostitution scandal

Written by: Bno
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MILAN: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was sent to trial on Tuesday to face charges of allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of power, the ANSA news agency reported.

Examining judge Cristina Di Censo set the first hearing for April 6, after prosecutors asked for an immediate trial last week.

Prosecutors say they have "ample evidence" from wiretaps to prove that Ruby, and other young women who attended Berlusconi's famous 'bunga bunga' parties, were prostitutes.

Berluconi's lawyers have argued that the judge does not have the power to order the trial. The premier said the accusations against him are "groundless" and did not bother him at all. He also said he will sue the Italian state in order to make the prosecutors pay for their actions

Berlusconi, 74, and Ruby, now 18, deny having sex and she says money he gave her was a gift.

Berlusconi acknowledges that he phoned a Milan police station in May to get the Moroccan belly dancer out of jail after an unrelated accusation of theft. He said he did so to avoid a diplomatic incident after she told him she was the niece of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, was released into the custody of ex-showgirl Nicole Minetti, the premier's former dental hygienist and now a regional councillor in Lombardy, the area around Milan.

Ruby, who was 17 at the time, was handed over to a Brazilian prostitute after she was supposed to stay with Minetti or go to a juvenile shelter, the news agency reported.

The wider investigation into Minetti, Berlusconi news anchor Emilio Fede and talent scout Lele Mora for allegedly procuring prostitutes should be closed by the weekend, according to judicial sources.

If convicted, Berlusconi could face up to 15 years in prison. Using a sex worker under the age of 18 carries a jail term of up to three years, while abuse of office carries a term ranging from six to 12 years.

On Sunday, thousands of women rallied in more than 200 Italian cities to protest Berlusconi's alleged behavior toward women and demand his resignation.


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