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Italy

Berlusconi to attend all court hearings

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-03-06

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is currently involved in three different legal battles, will appear at all of his court hearings, his lawyer said Saturday. Berlusconi faces charges of fraud, abuse of power and sex with a minor.

AFP - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, plagued by legal troubles including accusations he had sex with an underage prostitute, will attend all his court hearings, his lawyer said Saturday.

"There is an unusual level of attention on him and so he thinks it right to appear in person," Niccolo Ghedini told reporters in Milan, specifying that the premier, who has not attended court for years, will be present at all hearings.

"We are willing to conduct the trials, and quickly," Ghedini said, adding that Berlusconi would arrange his schedule so that he can attend four hearings a month, on Mondays, as well as some Saturdays "in extreme cases".

Though the Italian leader can legitimately avoid appearing in court by saying that his official duties prevent him from attending hearings, Ghedini met with Milan's public prosecutor's office on Friday to discuss his availability.

All trials against the Italian prime minister were suspended in April last year following the adoption of a law the previous month granting 74-year-old Berlusconi impunity from prosecution for 18 months.

In mid-January the Constitutional Court partially struck down that measure, opening the way for the resumption of the court cases from February 26, when the slew of trials involving the premier kicked off once more.

The embattled leader -- accused of tax fraud, witness corruption and having sex with an underage prostitute and using his position to cover up his alleged crime -- is currently involved in three trials, as well as another case still at the preliminary hearings stage.

The prime minister is set to appear before a court in Milan on Friday for a trial on his alleged payment of 600,000 dollars (436,000 euros) to former British lawyer David Mills to commit perjury in two trials in the 1990s.

Berlusconi is also involved in a trial examining allegations he and others at his Mediaset business empire engaged in fraud to make its revenues appear smaller than they really were.

Finally, he is also suspected of abuse of confidence in a tax fraud case involving the purchase of television rights by Mediatrade-RTI, one of his many companies.

The hearing, postponed Saturday until March 28, will decide whether the premier should stand trial.

But Berlusconi's real nightmare begins on April 6 with a trial involving barely legal pole dancer Karima El Mahroug, better known to Italians as "Ruby the Heart Stealer".

Berlusconi's lawyers are expected to argue that the Milan court does not have the right to hear the case, reports said, while the government is trying to restore full parliamentary immunity that would also cover Berlusconi.

The opposition accuses Berlusconi of creating laws just so he can dodge criminal investigations, while the prime minister regularly says that prosecutors are out to get him and have a left-wing bias.

 

Date created : 2011-03-05

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