Silvio Berlusconi: Italy prosecutors seek 'sex' trial

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (4 Feb 2011) Mr Berlusconi says the allegations against him are politically motivated

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Prosecutors have requested an immediate trial for Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi on charges of sex with an under-age prostitute and abuse of power.

A judge must now decide whether to accept the prosecutors' request and indict the 74-year-old prime minister.

Mr Berlusconi is alleged to have paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl and then intervened to get her released from custody in a separate case.

He denies the sex allegations, saying they are politically motivated.

He has previously admitted calling the police after Karima El Mahroug's arrest but says he did nothing wrong and acted out of pity.

The woman, known as Ruby, is now 18 and denies that they had sex.

Although frequenting prostitutes is not a crime in Italy, having sex with one under the age of 18 is an offence that commands a prison sentence.

Analysis

Could the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, be in the dock by Easter? That's what some are now suggesting.

Prosecutors in the case are sending their dossier to a judge in Milan.

That judge will then take a few days to mull his decision: whether or not to send Silvio Berlusconi for trial.

If he decides there is enough evidence, he could opt for a fast-track trial that could begin in the next few months.

Together, the two offences could carry a sentence of up to 15 years.

Mr Berlusconi effectively lost his prime ministerial immunity from prosecution last month when Italy's top court ruled it was up to individual judges to decide whether to put him on trial.

Mr Berlusconi has taken every opportunity to deny the accusations and is a seasoned, combative defender of his liberty.

Yet the prosecutors seem determined to get the prime minister to answer for his alleged crimes.

A Moroccan nightclub dancer, Miss Mahroug was detained for alleged theft by police but freed after a phone call from the prime minister.

'Final meeting'

Mr Berlusconi refused to appear before prosecutors as part of their investigation and last week the Italian parliament rejected their request to search the offices of the prime minister's accountant.

As part of their request, the prosecutors in Milan submitted two sets of documents in January, among them what they said was proof of payments made by the prime minister to prostitutes, including Miss Mahroug.

Although Miss Mahroug has said she received cash at the end of one of Mr Berlusconi's parties, she maintains it was not in return for sex.

Last month, Italy's Constitutional Court amended a law granting the prime minister and senior members of the government temporary immunity from prosecution.

The judges ruled that individual judges should be allowed to decide whether a prime minister should be tried in office.

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