Tuesday 19 July 2011

Berlusconi | Court rejects defence complaint

A Court has rejected jurisdiction challenges by Silvio Berlusconi's defence team in the Italian prime minister's trial for abuse of power and paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl.

Lawyers for the 74-year-old billionaire playboy had challenged the court's right to hear the case, saying the abuse of power charge which carries a sentence of up to 12 years in prison should be heard by a special court for ministers. "The court considers itself to be competent," the ruling said today.

Mr Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with Moroccan-born nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, better known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer", at a series of wild dinner parties held at his private villa in the north of Italy. The Prime Minister is also suspected of abusing his powers by having the girl sprung from police custody when she was arrested in May 2010 for alleged theft - a move prosecutors say was an attempt to hide his sex crime.

Mr Berlusconi was not in court to hear the ruling, nor did he attend a hearing in a corruption trial against him - the second of three trials in Milan in which he is a defendant. He has protested his innocence in all three. In the second case, Mr Berlusconi is accused of paying a bribe to his former British lawyer, David Mills, to give false testimony in court.

The court set the date for the next hearing on September 19.

Mr Berlusconi had been expected to attend the bribery hearing but pulled out because of a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

The Premier attended court for the first time in eight years in March, and had said he was keen to be present during the hearings in trials against him whenever his schedule permitted it.

He has not made any court appearances since May 16.

Author | Source | AFP Milan | July 19th, 2011

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