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Berlusconi court accused of bias

Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi's defence team has denied there were any erotic escapades at dinners at his villa near Milan and accused the court of bias against the media mogul.

Nicolo Ghedini said during closing arguments that Berlusconi neither paid for sex with an under-age teen, nor exerted pressure on police officials in an effort to cover it up, as charged. The sensational trial is in its final stage, with a verdict is expected later this month.

Both Berlusconi and the woman, Karima el-Mahroug, who is now 20 and was 17 at the time of the alleged encounters, deny ever having had sex.

Ghedini said most prosecution witnesses who described scenes of sexual excess during the parties were not there between February 2010 and May 2010 when el-Mahroug, better known as Ruby, attended dinners at the villa.

Defence witnesses described "normal" dinners during which participants chatted about soccer and denied any sexual encounters with the then-premier. "We have 25 witnesses give more or less similar accounts of the evenings," Ghedini said, adding that prosecutors could not argue that their witnesses were correct while those of the defence were not reliable.

He also said the judges hearing the case were "culturally similar" to prosecutors, whom he has accused of waging a politically motivated campaign against Berlusconi with the goal of removing him from politics. "I had the impression during the course of this trial of having caused some annoyance to the judges," Ghedini said.

Berlusconi's defence has sought to move the sex trial and a tax fraud case to Brescia, another northern Italian city, arguing that Milan magistrates are biased against Berlusconi, who has faced numerous prosecutions for his business deals. Italy's high court denied the request.

An appeals court last month upheld a tax fraud conviction against Berlusconi as well as the four-year sentence and five-year ban on public office.

Neither Berlusconi nor el-Mahroug have testified at this trial, but Ghedini asked the court to enter as evidence testimony that she gave in a separate trial of three former Berlusconi aides accused of procuring prostitutes for the now-infamous "bunga banga" parties at Berlusconi's villa.

In sworn testimony, el-Mahroug denied sex with Berlusconi or of witnessing sexually charged scenes. She did say she received envelopes with several thousand euro as gifts every time she attended a party plus an additional 30,000 euro (£25,500) to open a beauty salon.


From Belfast Telegraph