Europe

George Clooney named as Berlusconi 'defence witness'

  • 30 March 2011
  • From the section Europe
George Clooney and girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis
Image caption George Clooney's girlfriend is believed to have denied attending the February 2010 party

Hollywood star George Clooney is one of 78 witnesses named by Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi for his trial on charges of sex with an under-age prostitute.

Mr Clooney's girlfriend, Italian model and TV star Elisabetta Canalis, is also on the list as are MPs and ministers.

The couple were said to have been seen at one of Mr Berlusconi's parties by Karima el-Mahroug, the teenager whom he is alleged to have paid for sex.

The trial is due to start on 6 April. Mr Berlusconi denies the charges.

As well as the sex charge, Mr Berlusconi is also accused of abuse of power for intervening in a separate case in which Ms Mahroug, known as Ruby, was detained by police on suspicion of theft.

Lawyers acting for both the defence and prosecution submitted their witnesses on Tuesday in preparation for the trial.

Lake Como villa

Although it is for the judges to decide who appears as a witness, Ms Canalis is believed to have denied being present at the party in question at the prime minister's villa near Milan on 14 February 2010.

Image caption Ms Carfagna is said to have attended the first party at which Ruby was present

Mr Clooney has a villa of his own not far away, beside Lake Como. In a statement released late on Tuesday, the actor expressed his surprise that he had been listed.

"It seems odd since I've only met Berlusconi once and that was in an attempt to get aid into Darfur," he said.

Among the other named defence witnesses are supermodel Belen Rodriguez and TV presenter Barbara d'Urso.

Education Minister Maria Stella Gelmini and Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna are among four government representatives on the list.

According to legal documents quoted by Italian media, Ms Gelmini and Ms Carfagna are said to have been named because of their participation at "dinner-evenings at Berlusconi's Arcore residence" and their knowledge of what took place at such events.

They are said to have been present at the 14 February 2010 party when, according to the indictment, Ruby is alleged to have first attended an event at the villa.

Mr Berlusconi has described his dinners as "elegant", denouncing allegations of erotic dances and "intimate relations" as unbelievable.

Ruby has been named as a prosecution witness, reports say, as have 32 other women alleged to have attended erotic parties at the prime minister's residence.

Prosecutors allege that the Italian leader paid for sex with Ruby while she was still 17, an offence under Italian law. They maintain that the prime minister had sex with her on 13 occasions.

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