Berlusconi friends denounce prosecution's case in sex trial

Ex-premier faces six years in jail

Berlusconi friends denounce prosecution's case in sex trial

Rome, May 13 - Associates of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi reacted quickly and angrily Monday after a prosecutor called for a six-year prison sentence on charges of having sex with a minor and abuse of office. The defence in the case against Berlusconi, who is accused of having sex with the exotic dancer known as Ruby and abusing his influence to cover it up, will present its side on June 3. A court ruling is expected on June 24. But the politician's friends immediately denounced Milan prosecutor Ilda Boccassini's words and case as mere slander. "The words and tone used by the prosecutor Boccassini are proof of prejudice against Berlusconi, and intolerable political persecution," said Senator Altero Matteoli. Berlusconi used his ownership of Mediaset's Canale 5 to air a television special one day earlier about his legal woes and complaints that he is being persecuted by a left-wing judiciary. Daniele Capezzone, chairman of the House finance committee and a member of Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, called the prosecutor's comments "absurd and surreal" and the case "absolutely fragile and inconsistent". Besides the jail term, Boccassini also called for a lifetime ban against Berlusconi holding public office. Berlusconi is charged with allegedly having sex with Karima El Mahroug, better known as Ruby, while she was under the legal age of 18, and allegedly abusing his position as premier to spring her from a police station on an unrelated theft claim. Berlusconi and Ruby deny having sex, but Boccassini told the court there was "no doubt" Ruby was a prostitute and had had sex with Berlusconi. Berlusconi's defence lawyer Nicolo Ghedini said the request for a six-year combined jail term for the ex-premier was "very high, especially when compared to the historical precedent".

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