Milan

Berlusconi's defense team asks for Ruby-hearing postponement

Team cites legitimate impediment

Berlusconi's defense team asks for Ruby-hearing postponement

(see related story) Milan, February 8 - Defence lawyers for Silvio Berlusconi requested that a Milan court delay a hearing slated for Monday due to campaign activity in a trial into allegations that the ex-premier had sex with an underage prostitute. 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 team petitioned the court saying that it had a "legitimate impediment". 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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