Court suspends Berlusconi 'Ruby' trial till April 22

Awaiting Cassation's decision on alleged judicial bias

Court suspends Berlusconi 'Ruby' trial till April 22

Milan, March 25 - Judges in Milan on Monday suspended the trial of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi for allegedly paying for sex with an underage dancer named Ruby until April 22 while the supreme Cassation Court considers a ruling on a motion to move the case to a court in Brescia on alleged grounds of biased judges. A ruling at the Cassation is expected April 18. Defence lawyers accuse 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 high blood pressure as a result. The court had ordered the trial to resume on Monday. Prosecutors 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 after 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. Berlusconi's lawyers have also asked for the ex-premier's appeals trial in Milan, which regards a four-year conviction for tax fraud on film rights involving his Mediaset television empire, to be moved to Brescia on the same grounds of alleged judicial bias. If claims of judicial bias are upheld in Italy, trials are moved to the nearest big city. Brescia is 82 km (51 miles) east of Milan.

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