Berlusconi sex trial postponed after 5 minutes

Other News Materials 6 April 2011 13:53 (UTC +04:00)

The trial in which Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been charged with paying for sex with an underage go-go dancer was Wednesday postponed until May 31 after an opening hearing which lasted just five minutes, DPA reported.

Berlusconi was not present for the hearing, held in a Milan courtroom. His lawyers submitted a letter in which the premier said he had been prevented from attending due to "institutional engagements."

Magistrates said proceedings were postponed to allow for the naming of civil plaintiffs in the case.

The case also sees Berlusconi accused of abusing his powers of office.

More than 150 local and international reporters had been accredited to attend the proceedings, which have drawn massive media attention both in Italy and abroad. No television cameras were allowed in the courtroom.

Prosecutors accuse the 74-year-old premier of paying Moroccan go-go dancer Karima El Mahroug for sex at his home near Milan in 2010 when she was 17 years old - a minor in terms of laws governing prostitution in Italy.

The evidence which is expected to be presented during the course of the trial includes wire-tap recordings allegedly proving how women were procured for sex parties at Berlusconi's villa.

The charges of abuse of power, stem from his intervention on El Mahroug's behalf when she was briefly held by police on suspicion of theft - a move allegedly aimed at covering up his liaison with her.

Berlusconi has denied having sex with El Mahroug and has said he was acting in "good faith" when he claimed to police that she was former Egyptian president Hosny Mubarak's niece and that they should release her to avoid a diplomatic incident.

Berlusconi's lawyers have named among 78 proposed witnesses, among them Hollywood star George Clooney and his girlfriend, the Italian showgirl Elisabetta Canalis, who were allegedly guests at one of the premier's parties. Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo also appears on the list.

If convicted Berlusconi faces up to 15 years in prison.