Rome

Berlusconi's request to move trials rejected

Cassation says Milan court not biased against ex-premier

Berlusconi's request to move trials rejected

(supersedes previous) Rome, May 6 - Italy's supreme Court of Cassation on Monday rejected ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's petition to have two trials moved from Milan over alleged judicial bias. The 76-year-old center-right leader is accused of paying for sex with an underage Moroccan former nightclub dancer, Karima "Ruby" El Mahrough, and is appealing against a four-year conviction for tax fraud at his Mediaset media empire. Both Berlusconi and El Mahroug have denied having sex. Prosecutors have produced phone records allegedly proving El Mahrough stayed at Berlusconi's villa several times in April-May 2010, when she was 17. Sex workers can ply their trade legally in Italy from the age of 18. 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 been conducting a witch-hunt against him since he entered politics in 1994. The Mediaset appeal trial is set to resume Wednesday. The trial into allegedly paying for sex with a minor is scheduled to resume May 13.

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