Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Berlusconi wins sex trial delay

Silvio Berlusconi's lawyers say he is too ill to continue with his sex-for-hire trial (AP)

Silvio Berlusconi has won a delay in his sex-for-hire trial after pleading he was too ill to attend court.

He had been seeking to have two Milan trials postponed due to an eye condition for which he has been hospitalised since Friday.

Judges in Berlusconi's tax fraud appeal continued with Saturday's hearing after court-appointed doctors said his ailments were not severe enough to keep him from court.

But another court has now granted the motion to delay the sex-for-hire trial after ordering a new medical visit to verify the severity of his ailments. Berlusconi's lawyers submitted three medical certificates, citing the eye inflammation and a heart problem, to support the new delay.

Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini had been scheduled to wrap up her closing arguments in the trial in which Berlusconi, 76, is charged with having paid for sex with an underage Moroccan girl and using his influence to cover it up. They were put off until March 18.

Berlusconi has long complained that he is the target of a judicial campaign, citing many trials mostly in Milan and mostly related to his business dealings. He was convicted in October of tax fraud related to the purchase of the rights to air Hollywood movies on his television networks. Prosecutors in the appeals trial are seeking to uphold the four-year sentence, which includes a five-year ban on public office. A verdict is due in coming weeks in both the appeal case and the sex-for-hire trial.

Angelino Alfano, the head of Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party, has said the pressure to conclude the cases is "an attempt to eliminate Silvio Berlusconi by judicial means, having failed by electoral or democratic measures."

He led a contingent of a few dozen newly elected centre-right MPs to the court to protest at the treatment of Berlusconi. They sang the Italian anthem outside, entered the building and then left after a short time.

Berlusconi also faces new accusations in Naples that he paid a senator 3 million euros to defect to his party, significantly weakening the previous government of Romano Prodi. Prosecutors are seeking an accelerated trial that skips the preliminary hearing stage because they believe they have overwhelming evidence.

In yet another case, Berlusconi was convicted in Milan last week of breach of confidentiality for the illegal publication of wiretapped conversations related to a bank takeover attempt by a newspaper he owns. The court sentenced him to one year in jail, although it did not issue an order on carrying out the sentence. In Italy, it is rare for anyone to be put behind bars pending a possible appeal except in the case of very serious crimes like murder.

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