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Berlusconi sex trial to proceed despite campaign, court rules

January 14, 2013|By Tom Kington
  • Karima el-Mahroug, the Morrocan-born dancer whom former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi allegedly paid for sex when she was just 17, arrives at a Milan courthouse to testify in his trial.
Karima el-Mahroug, the Morrocan-born dancer whom former Italian Prime… (Daniele Mascolo / European…)

ROME --Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s request that his trial for allegedly paying a minor for sex be suspended in the run-up to next month’s elections was thrown out by judges Monday.

Lawyers representing the former leader argued that he would be too busy running his election campaign to dedicate himself to the trial. But after a four-hour deliberation, judges replied that campaigning was not on a par with parliamentary appearances, which can merit suspension of a trial, and ordered the proceedings to continue.

Berlusconi, 76, is accused of paying Moroccan-born dancer Karima El-Mahroug for sex at his infamous "bunga bunga" parties in Milan when she was 17. Paying for sex with a minor is illegal in Italy. Both deny having had sex.

Mahroug was summoned to court as a witness by the defense before Christmas, but held up the trial when she failed to appear. Her lawyer said she had gone to Mexico on vacation.

Mahroug finally showed up at the courthouse Monday, but in a surprise turnaround, and with no explanation given, Berlusconi’s lawyers decided that they no longer required her testimony and she did not take the stand. The defense had called her to testify that she and Berlusconi had not slept together. Berlusconi's lawyers said later that they decided not to have Ruby testify because they did not want to distract attention from the electoral campaign.]

Prosecutors said they would refer to statements already given to investigators by Mahroug in their case.

Defense lawyers asked judges Monday to hear as a witness actor George Clooney. Mahroug told investigators that she had seen Clooney at one of Berlusconi’s parties, an assertion he denies.

Judges hearing the case will decide whether to accept the request to summon Clooney at the next hearing, scheduled for next Monday.

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