'Ruby' trial verdict to be delayed

Supreme court to decide if hearing location to change

'Ruby' trial verdict to be delayed

Rome, March 18 - Delays ordered by a Milan court on Monday for a trial into allegations that ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi paid to have sex with an underage prostitute will mean that a Supreme Court ruling on whether or not trials should be moved to the nearby city of Brescia will precede the verdict. On Friday, Berlusconi's defence lawyers asked for the ex-premier's two Milan trials be moved on the grounds of alleged bias by magistrates he says are persecuting him. The lawyers accused the Milan judges and prosecutors of being "hostile" to Berlusconi, as allegedly shown by their recent orders for medical checks that an eye problem which sent the ex-premier to hospital made him genuinely unable to attend hearings. The trial had already been adjourned three times after Berlusconi spent over a week in hospital with a condition reportedly caused by someone poking him in the eye and the resultant high blood pressure. The court said the trial would resume on March 25 and cancelled the hearings scheduled to take place on Wednesday and Thursday. Prosecutors, who made the court send medical inspectors to check on Berlusconi's condition last week, had asked the judges not to delay the trial again, saying the 76-year-old media magnate was in "contempt of court" for playing for time. 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, saying she was the niece of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. 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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