Milan

Berlusconißgrantedßelectionßdelayßforßsexßtrialß

DefenseßlawyersßpetitionßacceptedßbyßMilanßcourt

Berlusconißgrantedßelectionßdelayßforßsexßtrialß

Milan, February 4 - Judges in a Milan court on Monday adjourned a hearing of the trial into allegations that ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi had sex with an underage prostitute after the defence team petitioned that it had a ''legitimate impediment''. Berlusconi is leading the centre right's campaign for next month's elections and two of his defence lawyers, Niccolo Ghedini and Piero Longo, are lawmakers for the media magnate's People of Freedom (PdL) party who are again standing for parliament. The defence called on the court on Monday to delay trial hearings due to campaign activity. The court postponed the trial until February 11. The lawyers said Berlusconi failed to show up in court on Monday because he was conducting a live television interview in the morning and was scheduled to be in the northeastern Italian city of Trieste for institutional reasons in the afternoon. Ghedini and Longo said they had suspended their own campaign activities in order to be present in the courtroom. The judges have on several occasions rejected petitions for the whole trial to be delayed until after the parliamentary elections on February 24 and 25. Berlusconi is accused of paying to have sex with a young Moroccan dancer, Karima El Mahroug, better known as Ruby the Heart-stealer, before she was 18 during alleged Bunga Bunga sex parties at his home. Both the ex-premier and the woman deny ever having sex. She said money she received from Berlusconi was given as part of a gift. Berlusconi is also accused of abuse of office for allegedly having used his influence when he was premier to spring El Mahroug from a Milan police station to hush up the affair after an unrelated theft claim. The charge of having sex with an underage prostitute carries a jail term of up to three years, and abuse of office 12 years.

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