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Berlusconi makes flying trial visit

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has made a rare appearance in open court at one of his four current trials, but left quickly claiming the case was a waste of time.

While he did not address the court, Mr Berlusconi made off-the-cuff remarks to reporters before the hearing and during a break, and stopped outside to thank dozens of supporters and political allies who were cheering.

"I've spent a surreal morning, a paradoxical waste of time and a waste of resources," Mr Berlusconi said before leaving. "There is no proof, no documents, no testimony, no money trail that supports the prosecutors' thesis."

He said magistrates, who he has long contended are politically driven and want to oust him from power, "do not work for the country but against the country".

The Italian leader has declared that he will appear in the Milan tribunal as frequently as duties allow to contest the four active court cases against him.

He smiled and shook hands with lawyers as he entered the courtroom. Speaking to reporters before the hearing, he was in combative mood.

"These charges are laughable, unfounded and demented," he said. He called the charges "the invention of the public prosecutor".

Prosecutors say Mr Berlusconi's Mediaset media empire purchased TV rights for US movies through two offshore companies and falsely declared the costs to reduce its tax bill.

Along with Mr Berlusconi, 10 others are charged in the case, including Mediaset chairman Fedele Confalonieri and movie producer Frank Agrama.

Mr Berlusconi dismissed the possibility of a conviction in any of the four cases, saying: "Not in your wildest dreams!"

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