Italy PM Silvio Berlusconi plans to attend his trials

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, March 2 The prime minister denies all the allegations against him

The Italian prime minister plans to attend all hearings in his forthcoming trials, his lawyer has said.

Lawyer Niccolo Ghedini said the Milan court had been asked to schedule hearings on Mondays alone.

Silvio Berlusconi is facing four trials over the coming months, including one linked to allegations that he paid an underage prostitute for sex.

Mr Berlusconi has denied all allegations against him, saying the cases are politically motivated.

Mr Ghedini said the attendance of the prime minister at hearings on Mondays was "the utmost one could expect from a president" of the Italian council of ministers, according to Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.

He said that in exceptional circumstances, Mr Berlusconi would also be willing to make himself available on Saturdays, if needed.

"The premier feels it is right that he should take to the stage in person to defend himself," Mr Ghedini said, adding that because of this the various hearings would need to co-ordinated in order to allow himself to attend.

Mr Berlusconi is not obliged to turn up in court and has, so far, only rarely appeared in person. Mondays, analysts say, are often particularly busy days in the parliamentary calendar.

Analysis

If the offer is genuine it represents a bolder strategy by the prime minister, who until now has always refused to co-operate personally with the courts because he accuses the prosecutors of being politically biased against him.

The pressure on Mr Berlusconi to appear in person has increased following a decision in January by Italy's highest court to water down the prime minister's immunity from prosecution.

But offering to show up presents some risks and some gains for the prime minister. The downside is that it will generate much more potentially damaging publicity for Mr Berlusconi and, knowing the prime minister's fiery personality, it also poses the threat of courtroom clashes with the judges.

But by appearing himself it shows Mr Berlusconi respects the rule of law, which some accuse him of trampling on. It also could reinforce his argument that he's innocent and has nothing to hide.

His lawyer added that due to a procedural error, the first hearing for a case of alleged corruption - scheduled for this Saturday - has been postponed until the end of the month.

Mr Berlusconi's immunity from prosecution was largely withdrawn in January.

In this latest trial Silvio Berlusconi is accused of fraud and embezzlement over the acquisition of television rights involving one of his media companies.

It is claimed that with his son and others Mr Berlusconi overpaid for television rights and then avoided paying tax on the transaction.

The case is related to another fraud trial involving the prime minister that began a week ago.

A third trial where Mr Berlusconi is accused of bribery is due to begin later this month.

The fourth trial is scheduled for next month in which the prime minister has been indicted for paying an underage prostitute for sex and abusing his powers.

The 74-year-old leader recently said that he had undergone more trials than anyone in the history of the universe, claiming he had been a defendant in more than 50 cases.

The prime minister also revealed that he had given up his mobile phone because he feared he might be the target of wire tapping by prosecutors who have been investigating him.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy, in Rome, says that while his legal troubles and alleged scandals involving young women have eroded his popularity, the prime minister seems to be gathering strength in parliament, as a breakaway party set up to challenge his leadership has itself become disunited.

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