Milan

Berlusconi's defense says 'only asked information' on Ruby

Ghedini claims police accelerated procedures without pressure

Berlusconi's defense says 'only asked information' on Ruby

Milan, June 3 - A defense lawyer in ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's sex trial told a Milan court on Monday that his client never asked police to accelerate procedures for Karima ''Ruby'' El Mahroug's release from police custody on the night the underage Moroccan was held on a theft charge. Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with Ruby when she was still a minor and for abuse of office when he phoned Milan police on her behalf on the night of May 27-28, 2010. The abuse of office charge is by far the heavier of the two criminal charges. Earlier this month prosecutors asked a Milan judge to sentence Berlusconi to five years in prison for abuse of office and one year for paying for sex with the underage dancer, for a six-year total sentence. Prosecutors also called for Berlusconi to be banned for life from holding public office. On the abuse of office charge, prosecutors claim that Berlusconi, who was premier in 2010, phoned from Paris pressuring police in Milan to release Ruby to avoid a diplomatic incident with Egypt because the girl had told him she was a relative of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. On Monday Ghedini told the court Berlusconi was "convinced" Ruby was "close to Mubarak" and that was why he allegedly brought her up at a State luncheon with the former Egyptian leader in May 2010. Police released Ruby to Nicole Minetti, a Lombardy regional councillor, ex-aspiring showgirl and Berlusconi's former dental hygienist, who was accompanied by a Brazilian prostitute. Minetti and two other people, in a related trial, are accused of providing prostitutes - including Ruby - for parties a Milan prosecutor described as ''Bacchic orgies'' at the home of the ex-premier. The prosecutor on Friday requested that the defendants - Minetti, ex-TV anchor Emilio Fede and bankrupt talent scout Lele Mora - be sent to jail for seven years. Ruby and Berlusconi both deny they ever had sex. ''Silvio Berlusconi never asked to accelerate procedures. He only asked for a piece of information,'' asserted Niccolo' Ghedini in his defense argument on Monday. Police chief-of-staff Pietro Ostuni testified in court that he ordered the officer on duty, Giorgia Iafrate, ''to accelerate procedures, not Berlusconi'', Ghedini said. Ghedini added that Iafrate had said in deposition that she ''autonomously decided to entrust Ruby'' to the custody of Nicole Minetti, not under pressure from Berlusconi. Berlusconi, Ghedini maintained, spoke to Ostuni just once ''asking only for a piece of information''. Ghedini added, ''I don't know how one can claim a crime took place'' like the one Berlusconi is charged with, ''if not from a sociological point of view''. Berlusconi claims the Ruby case is the latest example of allegedly left-wing prosecutors trying to hound him from office. A ruling on the sentence is expected June 24.

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