March 29 (Bloomberg) -- Oscar-winning actor George Clooney may be called to testify as a witness at Silvio Berlusconi’s underage-prostitution trial, the Italian premier’s lawyer said.
“Clooney has been included in the list of the defense witnesses,” Piersilvio Cipolotti, one of Berlusconi’s attorneys, said by phone today. “He was cited in court documents as a guest of Berlusconi at one of the dinners the premier organized and we want to ask him to confirm this.” The witness list must be approved by judges.
Berlusconi on Feb. 15 was ordered to stand trial on charges of abuse of power and paying a minor for sex, fueling calls for his resignation amid a deepening clash with Italy’s judiciary. The trial, which starts in Milan on April 6, will examine his ties to Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan dancer nicknamed Ruby Heart Stealer who attended at least one party at his mansion near Milan in February 2010 when she was 17.
El-Mahroug has been cited in Italian media including daily la Repubblica as saying in court documents that she was present at a dinner there along with Clooney and his Italian girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis. Cipolotti confirmed she made the statement to prosecutors.
The abuse-of-power charge stems from Berlusconi’s role in helping secure Ruby’s release from police custody in Milan after her detention in May on unrelated theft charges. The premier referred to El Mahroug as a relative of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak when he phoned the police on her behalf, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told parliament in November.
Mentioned to Mubarak
She is not related to Mubarak. Still, Berlusconi’s lawyers say he mentioned his relationship with Ruby to the Egyptian leader during a meeting with Mubarak last year.
“For this reason we included the Egyptian interpreter who was at that meeting in the witness list,” Cipolotti said. Other defense witnesses include Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Education Minister Maria Stella Gelmini.
Berlusconi, 74, who has denied any wrongdoing, has called the charges “disgusting” and “groundless.” Cipolotti said Berlusconi is “highly unlikely” to attend the first hearing of the trial due to official duties.
Clooney won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in the movie Syriana. He was also nominated for Oscars for roles in “Michael Clayton” and “Up in the Air.”
-- With assistance from Flavia Krause Jackson in Rome. Editors: Jeffrey Donovan, Dan Liefgreen
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