Former exotic dancer Karima El Mahroug, who was nicknamed Ruby Heart-Stealer,… (Giuseppe Cacace / AFP/Getty…)
ROME -- The former exotic dancer at the center of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's trial on charges of paying a minor for sex made a tearful statement Thursday complaining that she has been denied a chance to speak out in court and accusing judges of psychological torture.
"I have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide," said Karima El Mahroug, the Moroccan-born dancer who was better known as Ruby Heart-Stealer when she attended Berlusconi’s so-called "bunga bunga" parties as a 17-year-old in 2010.
In a surprise six-page statement that she read in front of the courthouse in Milan, Mahroug denied having sex with the former Italian leader. But she admitted lying about her background in an attempt to escape the "poverty and suffering which I was born into."
Berlusconi is accused of paying a minor for sex and later seeking to cover up the matter. He could face a possible 15 years in prison on the charges.
"I want to protest the fact that I have not been heard in court. I do not understand the reasons for it, and I intend to say so publicly. I'm here to call for justice," said Mahroug, who was called to testify last year by Berlusconi's defense team but failed to show up, flying to Mexico for a vacation instead. After her return, Berlusconi's lawyers declined to summon her again to the witness stand.
Mahroug’s protest comes as Berlusconi is demanding a role in a future Italian government that has yet to be formed after inconclusive elections in February. His coalition came in second at the polls.
At his trial, the court heard from young women who attended Berlusconi’s parties and who said female guests danced in their underwear or dressed as nuns and soccer players and were groped by Berlusconi.
Guests have admitted receiving large cash payments from Berlusconi, 76. Nicolo Ghedini, one of his lawyers, has described the payments as generous gifts to help the young women, whose careers were damaged when their names emerged during the investigation into Berlusconi's parties.
Berlusconi has admitted paying money to Mahroug but says he did so to fund her plan to open a beauty salon. Berlusconi has denied having "intimate relations" with Mahroug and says that there were no “scenes of a sexual nature” at his parties at his villa near Milan. Instead, they were costume shows “about which there was nothing vulgar."
Berlusconi has also denied putting pressure on police to release Mahroug from custody in May 2010 after she was arrested on suspicion of theft. He was prime minister at the time. Berlusconi says he believed she was a relative of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and was seeking to avoid a diplomatic incident.
On Thursday, Mahroug produced an old passport which named her as Mubarak and said it was the result of a bureaucratic error. She admitted claiming to be related to the former Egyptian leader and apologized for the “fantasy.”
Raised by Moroccan parents, Mahroug is now married to a man who ran a Genoa nightclub where she worked as an exotic dancer.