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Trial sought for Italy’s Berlusconi

Premier alleged to have paid for sex with girl, 17

Silvio Berlusconi has been dogged by scandals related to his relationships with young women and parties at his villa. Silvio Berlusconi has been dogged by scandals related to his relationships with young women and parties at his villa.
By Colleen Barry
Associated Press / February 9, 2011

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MILAN — Prosecutors said yesterday they will request a trial against embattled Premier Silvio Berlusconi over accusations he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl and then used his influence to try to cover it up.

Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati said he would file the request with the Milan court today, when prosecutors would consider the request on both accusations, and whether they would be tried separately or simultaneously.

Prosecutors allege Berlusconi paid for sex with a young Moroccan, nicknamed Ruby, who has since turned 18, and then used his influence to get her out of police custody when she was detained for the suspected theft of $4,103, allegedly fearing her relationship to him would be revealed. She ultimately was released into the custody of a Berlusconi aide who also is under investigation.

Supporters have never denied Berlusconi called Milan police over the teen’s detention, but have maintained it was to avoid a diplomatic incident because Berlusconi believed at the time that the girl was the niece of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Berlusconi, 74, himself said he made the phone call out of the goodness of his heart. The premier has been dogged by scandals related to his relationships with young women and parties at his villa. He denies ever having paid for sex and has accused prosecutors of seeking to drive him from office. Ruby has said they never had sex, though she says he gave her $9,400 on their first meeting and jewelry later.

Prosecutors have been considering a speedy trial for the abuse of power charge, which would skip the preliminary hearing phase if they believe there is overwhelming supporting evidence.

Bruti Liberati issued a statement last evening saying that Berlusconi’s case has been formally separated from charges against three of the premier’s aides accused of helping procure prostitutes. The move paves the way for the indictment requests today and suggests that prosecutors may be moving toward a speedy trial on at least one of the charges, because such cases must move toward formal charges within three months — Berlusconi has been under investigation just since December, while the other charges date to September.

Prosecutors have alleged in documents forwarded to parliament that “a significant number of young girls have prostituted themselves with Silvio Berlusconi.’’ Parliament last week denied a prosecutors’ request to search Berlusconi’s properties for evidence in the case, and challenged the prosecutors’ jurisdiction. Berlusconi’s defense maintains case jurisdiction rests with the Tribunal of Ministers, a three-member special tribunal set up to deal with alleged offenses committed by public officials in the execution of their duties.

Belusconi’s lawyer Nicolo Ghedini, speaking after a meeting with the premier in Rome, said that the Milan prosecutors were “violating the constitutional norms,’’ according to the ANSA news agency.

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