Crowds wait for Berlusconi verdict outside Milan court

Protesters verbally clash with supporters of ex-premier

Crowds wait for Berlusconi verdict outside Milan court

Milan, June 24 - A crowd of protesters, journalists and onlookers gathered in front of the Milan courthouse on Monday while a panel of judges convened to decide on a verdict in a trial into allegations ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi paid for sex with an underage prostitute and abused his power to try to cover up the affair. Dozens of TV crews, photographers and reporters from around the world began gathering in the early hours at the entrance to the courthouse. Arguments also broke out between Berlusconi supporters and protesters against the ex-premier. Two women carrying signs reading "Thank you Ilda Boccassini", the prosecutor leading the case against Berlusconi, and "We are tired of being blackmailed by a repeat offender who refuses to resign," verbally clashed with passersby who returned fire saying that the former premier was a victim being pushed out of politics. "Berlusconi made a mistake, but he can't be condemned for these things...this is being done to eliminate him from Italian politics," the onlookers shouted. Prosecutors have requested the media magnate be handed a six-year prison term. Both Berlusconi and the Moroccan dancer he is accused of paying for sex before she was 18, Karima El Mahroug, known as Ruby Heart-stealer, have both denied ever having sex. Berlusconi has repeatedly charged that judges who have ruled against him are part of a leftist plot to oust him from the political arena.

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