Rome

Berlusconi lawyer suggested cosy court-prosecutor relations

Ghedini say Milan judges prejudiced against ex-premier

Berlusconi lawyer suggested cosy court-prosecutor relations

(see related story) Rome, June 3 - Silvio Berlusconi's defence team on Monday reiterated its claim of bias against the Milan court hearing a trial into allegations the ex-premier paid to have sex with an underage prostitute. Lawyer Niccolo' Ghedini, who is also a lawmaker for Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, also suggested the court had cosy relations with prosecutors. In several ongoing and previous trials, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly left-wing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons. Last month Italy's supreme Court of Cassation rejected Berlusconi's petition for the sex trial and for an unsuccessful appeal against a four-year conviction for fraud at his media empire to be transferred to Brescia, saying claims of bias by Milan judges were "defamatory accusations". Ghedini, however, said the defence's position had not changed as it responded to the prosecution's request Berlusconi be handed a six-year jail term for allegedly paying for sex with a Moroccan former dancer known as Ruby before she was 18 and allegedly abusing his power in a bid to cover up the affair. "The impression is that I generate annoyance as the defence lawyer," said Ghedini. "The prosecution does not seem to generate a similar annoyance," added the lawyer, who said the judges shared "cultural closeness" to the prosecutors. "Right or wrongly, we consider the court prejudiced". Berlusconi and Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, both deny having sex and say monies the woman received from the ex-premier were gifts. Lead prosecutor Ilda Boccassini told the court last month that there was "no doubt" Ruby was a prostitute and had had sex with Berlusconi. The court is expected to announce its verdict on June 24.

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