Silvio Berlusconi sent for trial over ‘Ruby’ charges
Italian women who rallied on Sunday have only two months to wait to see the PM on the stand
After months of salacious revelations about showgirls, call-girls and bunga-bunga parties, a judge in Milan took the momentous decision today to order the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, to face trial on a charge of using an underage prostitute.
It is worth pausing for a moment to reflect on the enormity of the
situation: the prime minister of the world's seventh largest economy, a friend of Tony Blair and Vladmir Putin, and the owner of Italy's three largest private TV stations and one of its biggest football clubs, AC Milan, is charged with paying for sex with a 17-year-old former runaway.
She needs no introduction to anyone who's read a news site in the past six months: she is the Moroccan-born 'exotic dancer', Karima el-Mahroug, otherwise known as Ruby Rubacuori, a regular at the prime minister's private parties in the basement of his Milan mansion.
This isn't the most important charge against Berlusconi, in terms of a potential jail sentence: he is also accused of abusing his official authority by getting the police to release el-Mahroug when she was picked up in Milan last May, charged with shoplifting.
He is said to have personally telephoned the police station and asked for her to be released into the care of a member of his own party because, he said, she was the grand-daughter of the then Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.
Berlusconi is no stranger to the courts, having been accused in his time of tax fraud, embezzlement, even attempting to bribe a judge. But he has never been convicted of any crime.
Now he faces three years' jail if found guilty of paying a juvenile prostitute and up to 12 years on the charge of abusing his official authority.
Berlusconi's lawyers will argue that he believed it was true that Mubarak was the girl's grandfather and that he asked for her release to avoid a diplomatic incident. As for the juvenile prostitution claim, they will argue that el-Mahroug was actually older than her official paperwork claims.
It will not be lost on the Italian public that the judge who took the decision today to go for a fast-track trial, without the delay of committal proceedings, is a woman, Cristina di Censo, nor that three judges who will begin hearing his case on April 6 are female, too.
An estimated half a million Italian women, fed up with the entrenched sexism Berlusconi represents, and believing that he demeans all women with his antics, attended rallies across the country on Sunday, demanding that he leave office.
In Bologna one banner read: 'You are disgusting, as are your mafiosi friends and your flaccid bum'. Other women carried banners reading: 'Italy is not a brothel'. ·
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