Italy PM Berlusconi in first trial showing since 2003

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Media captionWATCH: Silvio Berlusconi stopped to wave to supporters as he left court

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has appeared in court in Milan where he faces charges of corruption.

Emerging after one-and-a-half hours, he told supporters that "it all went well". He had earlier described the case against him as "ridiculous".

Mr Berlusconi, a defendant in a total of four trials, has not attended a case for more than seven years.

He says he will attend as many hearings as possible to prove his innocence.

The grey palace of justice building was ringed with police and media crews as Mr Berlusconi's motorcade drove in, our correspondent says. Dozens of supporters stood outside the building, holding placards and waving flags.

The prime minister went straight into an underground car park before heading for the court room.

Monday's trial, taking place behind closed doors, concerns one of Mr Berlusconi's media companies, Mediatrade.

The Italian prime minister denies claims he inflated the price paid to buy television rights, and then skimmed off the difference to fund political and other activities.

His son and a number of others are accused alongside him.

Fifty trials

"None of the facts on which the Milan prosecutors have built their case is true," Mr Berlusconi told the Canale 5 TV channel on Monday. He made no comment during the hearing itself, which revolved around technical matters.

But as he left the court building, he waved to crowds of supporters from the step of a car, saying that he would attend the next hearing on 4 April.

The 74-year-old prime minister has been a defendant in about 50 trials in his career, but has exercised his right to stay away, accusing the judiciary of being politically biased against him.

Now he says he will turn up at as many hearings as his job permits in order to prove his innocence.

Sex and corruption

Although Mr Berlusconi was unlikely to make any statement during the hearing, he said earlier that the legal process against him was an attempt by the Left to "eliminate the key obstacle" to their seizure of power.

Another reason why he is due to appear in court is that Mr Berlusconi had his immunity from prosecution watered down in January.

As well as this court case, he also faces two other corruption trials and a fourth where he is accused of paying an underage prostitute.

In that trial, Mr Berlusconi faces up to 15 years in jail.

In each case Mr Berlusconi says he is innocent.

But although the cumulative effect of these sex and corruption scandals have taken their toll on his popularity, there is no immediate threat to his position as prime minister.