Ruby says refused enlistment in 'war' on Berlusconi

Victim of 'lies and prejudice', sex trial protagonist says

Ruby says refused enlistment in 'war' on Berlusconi

(By Denis Greenan). Milan, April 4 - The young Moroccan woman known as 'Ruby' who Silvio Berlusconi is on trial for allegedly paying for sex before she was 18 accused prosecutors Thursday of trying to enlist her in an alleged "war" against the three-time premier. "I understand now that there is a war against Berlusconi and I was pulled in the middle," Karima El Mahroug said at a self-organized protest in front of a Milan court where the so-called Ruby hearings have been taking place. "But I don't want my life destroyed," she said, reading a prepared text. Reiterating that she never had intercourse with the 76-year-old centre-right leader and media tycoon, El Mahrough, now 20, claimed she was put through "psychological violence" by prosecutors during investigations. The former nightclub dancer whose stage name was 'Ruby Heartstealer' said that prosecutors used an "investigative tactic that started out friendly, but progressively changed when it was clear I would not accuse Berlusconi". "I am the victim of investigators' tactics," she said. El Mahrough said she had been used and victimized by the press and prosecutors. Breaking into tears, she said she had decided to end two years of silence to defend herself, her family and especially her daughter Sofia from "lies and prejudice". "The latest episode of intolerance against me happened at Easter Mass when a person looked at me and my daughter, then said they hoped that she didn't end up like me," El Mahroug said. "There are still many people who look down on me and I find it disconcerting that no one wants to hear my truth, the only truth possible," she said. She said she created a parallel identity as a relative of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak because she wanted a "different life". As well as facing three years in jail for sex with an alleged underaged prostitute, Berlusconi could be sentenced to a further 12 years for abusing his position as premier to spring Ruby from a Milan police station, supposedly to avoid a diplomatic incident with Egypt. He has stated he genuinely believed at the time that El Mahrough was Mubarak's niece, as she had told him. The claim was backed by parliament when it voted to put the case to the Constitutional Court. Prosecutors argue he was trying to hush up the affair. On Thursday El Mahroug showed one of her old passports in which the name Mubarak appears, saying she had added it so she could falsely claim to be related to the former Egyptian leader. "I needed to introduce myself as Mubarak's niece to create a life different than mine...with different origins, far away from the poverty in which I was born and grew up, and the suffering I went through before I left my family in Sicily," El Mahroug said. "I made a mistake and now I am paying the price... I'm sorry. I committed a blunder when I said I was a relative of Mubarak". El Mahrough staged Thursday's protest to complain about not having been heard as a witness during the trial. When she was called to testify in December but failed to show up, her lawyer said she was vacationing abroad with her partner and child and would be available to testify in January. In January, El Mahroug appeared in the Milan court, but in a surprise move judges upheld a request by the defence to not demand her testimony. Instead the judges agreed to rely on statements El Mahroug made to investigators in the case. In March, judges in Milan suspended Berlusconi's trial 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. Both Berlusconi and El Mahroug have denied having sex during several of the ex-premier's so-called Bunga Bunga parties while she was underage. Prosecutors have produced phone records allegedly proving El Mahrough stayed at Berlusconi's villa several times in April-May 2010, when she was 17. Prostitutes can work legally in Italy from 18 on. Prosecutors say Berlusconi had sex with 33 other alleged prostitutes at his villa over the course of several evenings. The ex-premier describes the young women, mostly aspiring starlets, as friends who have been maligned. He is still paying them a monthly stipend at a large apartment complex in Milan. Berlusconi, who says his parties were innocent and "elegant" affairs, has quipped "33 women in two months is too many even for someone who likes pretty girls, like me". He claims to be the victim of biased prosecutors who have allegedly been conducting a witch-hunt against him since he entered politics in 1994.

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