Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

REPORTERS

Inside the CIA’s secret prisons

Read more

FOCUS

In Burma, the rise of radical Buddhism

Read more

ENCORE!

Haute Couture: the hand-stitched clothing made in Paris that sells for the price of small yachts

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Caution, another Cast Lead lies ahead'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Rising into the ranks of Haute Couture

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: How to Stop the Spiral? Israel Readies For Ground Offensive

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: How to Stop the Spiral? Israel Readies For Ground Offensive (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

A thin line between fact-checking and propaganda in Gaza social media coverage

Read more

#THE 51%

Sweden: A Feminist's Paradise?

Read more

  • Inside the CIA’s secret prisons

    Read more

  • Are French high school students getting smarter?

    Read more

  • Disgraced Suarez leaves Liverpool for Barcelona

    Read more

  • French ‘Civic Service’ eyes massive expansion amid huge demand

    Read more

  • Kurdish forces take over two oilfields in northern Iraq

    Read more

  • Amazon snubs French free delivery ban with one-cent charge

    Read more

  • In Pictures: Petrol station hit by Hamas rockets

    Read more

  • Manhunt as FIFA partner flees Rio hotel to avoid arrest

    Read more

  • Video: Living in Tel Aviv, under threat of rocket attack

    Read more

  • Video: Palestinians fear full Israeli military offensive in Gaza

    Read more

  • US prepared to negotiate Gaza ceasefire, Obama says

    Read more

  • French companies will have to accept anonymous CVs

    Read more

  • Ukrainian forces close in on Donetsk

    Read more

  • Germany asks US intelligence station chief to leave country

    Read more

  • Tour de France passes WWI Chemin des Dames battlefield

    Read more

Europe

Berlusconi 'not worried' over forthcoming underage sex trial

©

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-02-16

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi brushed off a court ruling ordering him to stand trial in April for charges of paying for sex with a minor Wednesday, saying he is "not at all worried" and that his government will stay on until 2013.

AFP - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi voiced defiance on Wednesday after an announcement that he must stand trial for sex with an underage prostitute, saying his government would stay on until 2013.

"All I can say is that I'm not at all worried," Berlusconi said in Rome at a press conference in which he listed his government's economic achievements.

"We have never been more united and more decided to continue the parliament until its mandate runs out," a smiling Berlusconi told reporters.

Despite insistent questions about the sex scandal, he declined further comment, saying: "For the love of God, I will not talk about this."

Berlusconi's supporters have rallied around the 74-year-old premier, who has denied all the charges and accused prosecutors of plotting against him, arguing that as long as he holds a majority in parliament he does not have to resign.

But outrage over the sex crime investigation has brought sharp condemnation from the Catholic Church and mass protests by hundreds of thousands of Italian women at the weekend, as well as a sharp fall in Berlusconi's popularity.

Stefano Folli, a columnist for Il Sole 24 Ore daily, said Italy is now facing a stand-off between the prime minister and the judiciary.

"We are headed for a devastating institutional conflict," Folli said.

"A prime minister standing trial for these very serious crimes... is a unique case in the recent history of Western democracies," he added.

A poll published on Monday said Berlusconi's approval rating fell to its lowest-ever level of 35 percent in January from 40 percent in December.

But the poll also showed Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party holding strong with 29.5 percent of voting intentions -- the highest of any party.

A poll last month as the scandal raged showed 49 percent of Italians believe Berlusconi should resign while 45 percent believe he should not.

The prime minister stands accused of paying for sex with a 17-year-old prostitute nicknamed "Ruby the Heart Stealer" and then abusing his powers to spring her out of police custody when she was later detained for theft.

The underage sex charge carries a maximum sentence of three years, while the abuse of power accusation is punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

Tuesday's announcement that Berlusconi will stand trial on these charges starting on April 6 is the latest twist in a scandal-plagued political career spanning nearly two decades for the billionaire media tycoon.

Berlusconi has survived four corruption convictions that have all been either overturned or expired under a statute of limitations, but it is the growing number of sex scandals that have clouded his career in recent years.

He also faces two more trials later this year on corruption charges.

While Italy's left-wing opposition is calling for Berlusconi's resignation, his allies say the Milan court due to hold hearings does not have jurisdiction.

"Democracy is in danger as there is a risk of an operation by the media and the judiciary to overturn the result of an election," said Fabrizio Cicchitto, a leading member of the PDL party, referring to Berlusconi's 2008 poll win.

Massimo Franco, a columnist for Corriere della Sera daily, said: "It's possible that early elections become inevitable but his numeric majority and the loyalty of the Northern League party... guarantee his survival."

The anti-immigration Northern League, which wants federal reforms to give Italy's northern regions greater powers, is Berlusconi's last major ally in government and its position in the weeks ahead is seen as critical.

Berlusconi survived two confidence votes last year after the defection of speaker of parliament Gianfranco Fini and around 40 lawmakers from the ruling coalition and has recently managed to strengthen his majority in parliament.

On Tuesday he accused Fini of slowing down reforms he had wanted to enact since their election victory in 2008 and he said that he would build up his majority to 325 seats out of 630 in parliament "in the next few days."
 

Date created : 2011-02-16

  • ITALY

    Berlusconi faces April trial in underage sex scandal

    Read more

  • ITALY

    Women take to Italian streets over Berlusconi sex scandals

    Read more

  • ITALY

    Prosecutors want Berlusconi to stand trial

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)