Milan

Prosecutors request conviction in Berlusconi sex trial

Ex-premier facing 6 years, ruling expected June 24

Prosecutors request conviction in Berlusconi sex trial

(By Christopher Livesay) Milan, May 13 - Prosecutors on Monday requested a six-year combined jail term - five years for abuse of office and an additional year for paying for sex with an underage dancer - for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi in his sex trial in Milan. Prosecutors also called for Berlusconi to be banned for life from holding public office. Berlusconi is charged with having sex with an underage prostitute known as 'Ruby' and allegedly abusing his position to spring her from a police station on an unrelated theft claim. The ex-premier and media magnate was facing maximum possible terms of three years and 12 years respectively. Berlusconi and Ruby deny having sex and the three-time premier claims the case is the latest example of allegedly left-wing prosecutors trying to hound him from office. Lead prosecutor Ilda Boccassini told the court there was "no doubt" Ruby was a prostitute and had had sex with Berlusconi, and went on to contest a series of arguments from the defense. Berlusconi has long claimed that he intervened to remove Ruby from jail the night of May 27-28, 2010 because he was under the false impression that she was the niece of Egypt's then president Hosni Mubarak and that avoiding an international incident was in the interest of the country. Boccassini claimed when the police headquarters' chief in Milan, Pietro Ostuni, called the police commissioner about Berlusconi's phone call, Ostuni knew "full well that the story about Mubarak's niece was a colossal lie and he knew full well that the girl was underage, Moroccan, and an escapee from a group home and that the then-premier was interested in her". She also claimed that numerous defense witnesses "were forced to lie" and said that evidence given by showgirl Miriam Loddo and by a former Berlusconi adviser on foreign relations Valentino Valentini were not true. The remarks infuriated Berlusconi defence lawyer Piero Longo, who interrupted the prosecution. Prosecutors also accused Berlusconi of paying off Ruby with 4.5 million euros and shielding her from scrutiny "with a battery of guards" that was akin to a "military apparatus". Berlusconi's legal team recoiled after prosecutors then requested the six-year prison term, arguing that it "defied judicial precedent," according to Nicolo' Ghedini. Berlusconi said the six-year request was the fruit of "prejudice and hate". "Theories, innuendo, twisting, falsehoods inspired by prejudice and hate, all against the evidence, beyond the imaginable and the ridiculous," he said in a statement. "Everything is allowed behind the shield of (judicial) robes. Poor Italy!". Friends and associates leapt to his defense. "The words and tone used by the prosecutor Boccassini are proof of prejudice against Berlusconi, and intolerable political persecution," said Senator Altero Matteoli. Daniele Capezzone, chairman of the House finance committee and a member of Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party, called the prosecutor's comments "absurd and surreal" and the case "absolutely fragile and inconsistent". Berlusconi's defense team will present its side on June 3. A court ruling is expected on June 24. The sex case is the most sensational and potentially the most dangerous in a series of trials against a man who has reclaimed centre stage in politics with the formation of Italy's new right-left government. Last week, however, Berlusconi suffered a legal setback when his four-year tax-fraud conviction in trading film rights at his Mediaset media empire was upheld on appeal. The case now goes to Italy's supreme Court of Cassation. Berlusconi is also appealing a one-year sentence for involvement in the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap. Naples prosecutors have also requested the media magnate be indicted for allegedly bribing a Senator to change political colours and help bring down Romano Prodi's 2006-2008 centre-left government. Berlusconi claims to be the victim of biased prosecutors who have been conducting a witch-hunt against him since he entered politics in 1994. His party held a demonstration over the weekend in the northern Italian city of Brescia protesting judicial "persecution" in response to the Mediaset tax fraud ruling.

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