Women say 'enough!' to Berlusconi
More than 2,000 Italian women, including politicians and actresses, have signed an online petition telling premier Silvio Berlusconi that not all women in Italy are prostitutes or showgirls, in response to his encounters with a teenage Moroccan girl.
The campaign, entitled Basta! (Enough!) is being co-ordinated by the leftist L'Unita newspaper, which is close to Italy's centre-left opposition. It was announced as criticism mounted against the premier over the scandal, including from the Catholic Church.
Prosecutors have placed Mr Berlusconi and three associates under investigation, alleging he paid for sex with the 17-year-old girl and used his office to cover it up. Prosecutors have said Mr Berlusconi had sex with several prostitutes during parties at his Milan estate.
The 74-year-old prime minister has gone on a campaign to deny the accusations, taping two video messages and an audio monologue in recent days in which he denounced the prosecutors as politically driven.
And the teenager, nicknamed Ruby, has begun a media blitz of her own to deny they ever had sex.
On Thursday, she appeared on one of Mr Berlusconi's television stations to dismiss reports, contained in wiretapped conversations published in Italian newspapers, that she asked Mr Berlusconi for five million euros (£4.2 million) to keep quiet.
"I could do something exaggerated, but I could never arrive at a statement like that," she said. She admitted that he gave her 7,000 euros (£5,889) to help her out financially but said he "never put a finger on me".
Italy's opposition leaders have demanded again that Mr Berlusconi resign and there is talk among his allies of calling early elections. But the premier has insisted he is not going anywhere and would gladly testify in court - as long as the judges were impartial.
On Thursday, under a headline "The Women's Revolt", L'Unita published what it said was a partial list of 2,000 Italian women who had signed its campaign to tell Mr Berlusconi they had had enough of his antics.
"There are other women," the paper wrote in an editorial, listing the names of prominent union leaders, opposition politicians, actresses, journalists and citing ordinary Italian mothers and daughters. "There are women who don't consider it a victory to go into a powerful man's home and come out having earned what a normal (person) earns with seven months of work."