MILAN, Jul 18 – A Milan court rejected submissions by Silvio Berlusconi’s defence team on Monday in the trial against the Italian premier for alleged bribery and paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl.,
Lawyers for the prime minister had presented 16 preliminary complaints in the trial — which began on April 6 — including a challenge to the court’s right to hear the case.
“In light of the charges, the court considers itself to be competent,” the ruling said.
Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with Moroccan-born Karima El Mahroug, better known as “Ruby the Heart Stealer”, when she was 17, at a series of wild “dinner” parties held at his private villa in the north of Italy.
The prime minister is also suspected of abusing his powers by having the girl sprung from police custody when she was arrested in May 2010 for alleged theft — a move prosecutors say was an attempt to hide his sex crime.
The premier’s lawyers argued that the prostitution charge for the television magnate should be heard by a court in Monza, closer to his luxurious personal residence in Arcore, outside Milan, where the alleged crime took place.
His defence also challenged the Milan court’s authority to hold the trial at all, saying the abuse of power charge should be considered by a special ministers’ court.
The Milan court ruled Monday that the trial should not be held in a special minister’s court because Berlusconi was not acting within his role of prime minister when he called the police, but was simply abusing his political power.
It also rejected the defence’s request to move the trial to Monza.
The 74-year old prime minister, who is a defendent in three ongoing trials and is fighting off growing unpopularity, was not in court to hear the ruling.
He faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted of abuse of power.