Prosecution says witnesses forced to lie for Berlusconi

Allegations outrage ex-premier's defence

Prosecution says witnesses forced to lie for Berlusconi

Milan, May 13 - Some witnesses "were forced to lie" during criminal proceedings against ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi on sex charges, a prosecutor alleged Monday. The statement by prosecutor Ilda Boccassini infuriated Berlusconi defence lawyer Piero Longo, who interrupted the prosecution. Boccassini said that evidence given by showgirl Miriam Loddo and by a former Berlusconi adviser on foreign relations Valentino Valentini were not true. Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with Karima El Mahroug, a young Moroccan former nightclub dancer who went by the stage name 'Ruby Heartstealer', before she was 18, the legal age of prostitution in Italy. He is also accused of allegedly abusing his power in a bid to cover up the affair. El Mahroug and Berlusconi have both said they never had sex during several of the ex-premier's so-called Bunga Bunga parties while she was underage. As well as facing three years in jail for sex with an alleged under-aged 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. Valentini has previously testified that Berlusconi honestly thought that Ruby was the niece of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and that it was Valentini's idea to intervene with police to avoid an international incident.

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