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Milan Judges Reject Berlusconi Bid to Halt Sex Trial

Karima el-Mahroug, center, the Moroccan woman at the center of ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's sex-for-hire trial, Milan, Jan. 14, 2013.
An Italian court in Milan has rejected a request by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to suspend his sex scandal trial.

Lawyers for Berlusconi argued that his role as leader of a center-right coalition standing in next month's general election would be an impediment to the proceedings. Prosecutors have accused the defense of trying to draw out the trial to avoid a verdict before elections.

Meanwhile, defense lawyers said they did not need to hear the testimony of the Moroccan-born exotic dancer at the center of the case. Karima el-Mahroug, also known as Ruby, appeared in court Monday where she had been expected to testify.

Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with El-Mahroug when she 17 at his mansion near Milan. Both have denied any sexual contact. Prostitution is legal in Italy, but not for women younger than 18.

The former prime minister is also accused of abuse of office by pressuring police to release El-Mahroug after her arrest for petty theft.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.