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Berlusconi prostitution, abuse of power trial adjourns 10 minutes after opening

The trial for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official website, in Italian; JURIST news archive] on charges that he paid an underage prostitute for her services was adjourned Wednesday only 10 minutes after opening in Milan. Berlusconi and Moroccan-born teenager Karima El Mahroug, known as Ruby, did not attend the trial. Berlusconi faces charges [Reuters] for abusing the power of his office and allegedly offering cash and jewels in exchange for sex with the 17-year-old Ruby, who is under the legal age of prostitution in Italy. In addition to the payments, Berlusconi also allegedly called police to secure Ruby's release while she was detained on an unrelated suspicion of theft. Both Ruby and Berlusconi maintain that the two never had sex, and Berlusconi denies the charges against him. Critics and supporters gathered outside the court [AP report] as the trial commenced. Berlusconi's trial is scheduled to resume on May 31.

Last month, Berlusconi attended a hearing in Milan [JURIST report] to defend himself against charges of fraud and embezzlement. Prior to that hearing, Berlusconi had not attended a case hearing for more than seven years. In February, an Italian judge ordered Berlusconi to stand trial [JURIST report] on the current charges of paying for sex with a minor and abuse of power. Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing and has called the charges groundless. In January, the Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] held hearings and subsequently struck down [JURIST reports] portions of a law [materials, in Italian] backed by Berlusconi that would have granted the premier and other public officials temporary immunity from charges while in office.

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