Berlusconi sex hearing over in minutes

Case against Italian prime minister on charges of paying for sex with an underage nightclub dancer adjourned until May.

    Neither Berlusconi nor 'Ruby the heartstealer' attended the trial in Milan [Reuters]

    The trial of Silvio Berlusconi, Italian prime minister, on charges that he paid a teenaged nightclub dancer for sex and later abused his power in an attempt to cover it up, has been adjourned.

    The trial started on Wednesday and Al Jazeera's correspondent, Barbara Serra, reported from outside the Milan court that "the judge adjourned the trial until May 31, after just 7 minutes".

    Neither Berlusconi nor Karima El Mahroug, the Moroccan-born woman in question, who goes by the stage name of Ruby the Heartstealer, were in the courtroom when the trial was declared open.

    "It hinges on Berlusconi's alleged abuse of power, since September, many pictures have appeared in the press of young girls believed to have attended his 'Bunga Bunga' sex parties," Al Jazeera's Serra said.

    Protests in Rome

    Meanwhile, several hundreds of people joined a rally in central Rome on Tuesday to call for an end of the manipulation of Italy's legal system for the benefit of the country's premier.

    'Purple People', the anti-Berlusconi group, which does not follow any political party, named the rally 'Night for Democracy'.

    It is only the latest in a series of demonstrations held in the Italian capital on Tuesday against the scandal-ridden media tycoon.

    The Italian parliament voted on Tuesday to seek to move Berlusconi's underage prostitution case to a special ministerial tribunal rather than the Milan court where it was adjourned on Wednesday.

    "There's still a chance, jurisdication will go from here to a special ministerial tribunal... and then it will be more likely for Berlusconi to get off the charges," our correspondent added.

    Gianfranco Mascia, the spokesman for the Purple People, said that "We thought it was important to show that the citizens revolt against any abuse made inside the parliament." 

    "The parliament is still being used to solve the problems of a single person, which is Silvio Berlusconi, while in Italy there are many problems left unsolved", Mascia added.

    "This way he will make all the laws he wants," said Marcello Veccia, one of the protesters who gathered in Rome's Piazza Santi Apostoli, a few hundreds metres from Berlusconi's residence in central Rome.

    The vote in the lower house of parliament will have no immediate effect on the trial, which will proceed as normal pending a decision by the constitutional court which could take some months.

    Berlusconi is accused of paying nightclub dancer Mahroug for sex when she was below the legal age limit of 18.

    Most of the meetings with El Mahroug, took place at the prime minister's private residence in Arcore, just outside of Milan.

    He is also accused of a related charge of abuse of office over telephone calls he made to have the young woman released from a Milan police station, where she had been detained following unrelated theft accusations.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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