News / Europe

Berlusconi Indicted in Prostitution Probe

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (File)
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (File)
Sabina Castelfranco

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been indicted on charges of paying to have sex with a minor and abuse of office. The trial is set to begin on April 6.

Following weeks of scandal and allegations about the Italian prime minister’s promiscuous sex life, a judge in Milan Tuesday ruled that he is to stand trial on charges that include paying an underage girl for sex and then using his position to cover up for it. Under Italian law, these charges put together carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Italian media have been dominated for weeks by the alleged prostitution affair with a then 17-year-old Moroccan girl known as Ruby.

The judge’s decision was a blow for the 74-year-old Mr. Berlusconi, who has always managed to avoid a definitive sentence in his many legal proceedings. The prime minister will be tried this time by three women judges who were chosen at random. He is not obliged to appear in court.

For the time being, his position as prime minister will not immediately be affected, as there is no legal obstacle to his continuing to hold office during trial proceedings.

Tuesday’s ruling indicates the judge believed there was reason to indict the prime minister. Chiara Magrini, professor of law at Rome’s John Cabot university explains.

"The fact itself that the judge admitted the immediate trial, the speedy trial, it implies that there is an overwhelming evidence, but not necessarily that he [Berlusconi] is guilty," said Magrini.

Italians are torn over whether it is right that the prime minister should undergo trial for his personal conduct. Berlusconi still enjoys much popular support. But many women are fed up with the way he has been carrying on, always surrounding himself with beautiful young girls.

"As far as the trial is concerned, I don’t see why somebody should be above the law," said a Milan resident. "I think he should stand trial. The judges know what they are doing."

Italy’s constitutional court last month removed the automatic immunity from trial that Mr. Berlusconi has previously enjoyed. Many say they hope this is an indication that the tide has been turning for the prime minister, and that he will realize the time has come for him to step down. With an increasingly unstable political situation, there has been widespread speculation that Italy will have to hold early elections.

But Berlusconi on Monday said he is confident he has enough support in parliament to see out his full term to 2013.

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