Berlusconi could attend sex trial hearing on Friday

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reacts during the presentation of politician Antonio Razzi's book "Le mie mani pulite" (My clean hands) on February 1, 2012. (AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO)

ROME: Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi could attend a hearing on Friday in his trial for having sex with an underage prostitute and abusing the powers of his office, his law office told AFP.

"It is up to him," a member of Berlusconi's defence team said on condition of anonymity, adding: "If he does come, it would be to make a statement".

Defendants in Italy have the right to make a statement to the court at any point during their trials, which is not the same as their cross-examination.

ANSA news agency quoted his lawyers as saying that Berlusconi would be present but said that he may simply attend the hearing without speaking.

The trial, which began in April 2011, is expected to last several months.

Berlusconi is accused of having sex with Moroccan-born exotic dancer Karima El-Mahroug, better known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer", when she was 17.

He is also charged with abusing his position as prime minister by pressuring police to release her when she was arrested for petty theft in May 2010.

The charge of exploiting an underage prostitute in Italy carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and abuse of power up to 12 years.

The source said the next witnesses expected were former foreign minister Franco Frattini and an interpreter, who are to testify Berlusconi was confused and believed "Ruby" was former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's niece.

Berlusconi resigned in November last year following a series of sex scandals, a parliamentary revolt and a wave of panic on the financial markets.





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