Berlusconi shrugs off sex trial

Italy’s prime minister, Silvio
Berlusconi, has brushed aside his indictment on vice charges saying he was
untroubled by the prospect of standing trial.

In his first public comment since a
judge committed him for trial on 6 April, he said: “For love of country I
won’t talk about it. Suffice to say that I am not in the slightest bit
worried.”

An Italian newspaper alleges
Berlusconi was aware Karima el-Mahroug, the girl he allegedly paid for sex, was
underage, according to a statement she reportedly made to prosecutors.

The centre-left daily La Repubblica
has published an extract from el-Mahroug’s alleged evidence, in which the Moroccan
runaway said that when she first met Berlusconi she told him she was a
24-year-old Egyptian.

 But on a subsequent visit, in March 2010:
“I told him the truth: I was a minor and I had no papers.”

She said that at their first
meeting, and before any relationship between them, the prime minister gave her $68,000.

Berlusconi denies any wrongdoing.

The prosecutors maintain el-Mahroug
was aged 17 at the time, though defence lawyers are expected to argue her date
of birth, as given in official documents, is wrong.

 The prime minister is charged with paying an
underage prostitute and trying to cover up the fact by abusing his official position.

It had already been reported that
el-Mahroug, who used the Facebook pseudonym Ruby Heartstealer, first met Berlusconi,
then 73, at a party at his house on Valentine’s night last year.

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