Berlusconi sex scandal trial

Silvio Berlusconi is to go on trial
on 6 April, charged with paying an underage prostitute and then trying to cover
up the alleged offence by abusing his position as Italy’s prime minister.

All three judges named for the trial
are women.

Berlusconi heard the news while in
Sicily, where he made no comment.

As opposition MPs called for the
prime minister’s resignation, his justice minister, Angelino Alfano, said the
judge’s decision had implications for “the autonomy, sovereignty and
independence of parliament”.

Alfano said that, by indicting
Berlusconi, the judge had ignored a vote on 3 February in which the chamber of
deputies voted not to agree to a search request from the prosecutors
investigating the prime minister on the grounds that they did not have the
necessary jurisdiction.

A Milan judge, Cristina Di Censo,
ruled that Berlusconi should be sent straight to trial, without committal
proceedings, accepting the prosecutors’ view that the usual procedures should
be waived because of the “obviousness of the evidence” against him.

The prime minister risks up to
three years in prison on the juvenile prostitution charge and up to 12 years on
the charge of abusing his official authority, which is a crime in Italy.

Under Italian legal procedure, the
victims of an alleged offence are identified at the start of the proceedings.

In this case, they are Karima
el-Mahroug, a young Moroccan former runaway who was a guest at parties in
Berlusconi’s villa outside Milan, and the ministry of the interior.

Prosecutors maintain that the prime
minister, who denies any wrongdoing, paid Mahroug, who adopted the nickname of
“Ruby Heartstealer” for sexual services while she was still 17.

Berlusconi’s lawyers are expected
to argue she is older than indicated on official documents.