di Marcello Mento
Milan, October 25 - Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan runaway and belly dancer also known as Ruby, says she looks forward to testifying in the case in which ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with her when she was a minor. "I'm the lightning rod of this trial and they should call on me," she told Italian television Thursday. "I can't wait, and when they do, I'll go". Both Ruby and Berlusconi deny exchanging money for sex. The media tycoon also denies abusing his power to try to cover up the affair. This allegation regards a telephone call he made to a police station in May 2010 to ask about Mahroug, who had been detained over a theft accusation. Berlusconi has said he was trying to avoid a diplomatic incident as he believed Mahroug was a relative of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Last week Berlusconi testified that he was "convinced" this was true in a meeting he once had with the late Egyptian strongman. Prosecutors, on the other hand, argue the premier was trying to hush up the affair by calling and then sending an official of his People of Freedom (PdL) party to pick her up. Prosecutors allege Berlusconi had sex with 33 prostitutes, including the then underage Ruby, at a number of so-called 'bunga bunga' parties at his home near Milan. Berlusconi says he is the victim of biased prosecutors. The charge of having sex with an underage prostitute carries a jail term of up to three years, and abuse of office 12 years. Three other people have also been indicted in the case on suspicion of procuring young women for the premier's alleged sex parties. They are Berlusconi's former dental hygienist, ex-showgirl and now Lombardy Regional Councillor Nicole Minetti, the PdL official who was sent to the police station for Mahroug last year; a former news anchor at one of Berlusconi's TV channels and close personal friend of the premier's, Emilio Fede; and a showbiz talent scout and self-styled 'VIP impresario', Lele Mora.