A Milan court on Monday set a timetable for hearings in the underage sex trial of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile, JURIST news archive], setting the last session of the trial for early March, two weeks after the February 24–25 national elections. One of many proceedings against Berlusconi, the in this case the ex-premier is charged [JURIST report] with paying then 17-year-old dancer Karima "Ruby" El Mahroug for sex and abusing his power by asking police to release her after she was detained for an unrelated theft crime. Berlusconi, who denies all charges, welcomed this decision, having requested to have the trial suspended for fear of an adverse verdict in the middle of his campaign for a fifth term in office. Milan judges rejected [Reuters report] the suspension requests last week and again on Monday. The next hearing is set [Gazzeta del Sud report] for January 28, where El Mahrough's mother will testify for the defense.
Berlusconi is currently a defendant in four trials. In addition to the sex accusations he faces charges of publicly releasing private wiretaps, embezzlement and tax fraud [JURIST reports]. Last week, a request to suspend his tax fraud appeal's trial was also rejected [JURIST report] by Milan Judges. Despite numerous trials Berlusconi has never served prison time. In January 2011, however, 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 granting the premier and other public officials temporary immunity from charges while in office.