A Milan prosecutor requested former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi serve a six-year jail term and be barred from public office if he’s convicted of paying a minor for sex and abusing power for trying to cover it up.
Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini made the request today at the end of more than six hours of closing arguments in the trial. Berlusconi was ordered to stand trial in February 2011. A final ruling may come as soon as next month, after the defense response starting on June 3, Ansa newswire reported.
Berlusconi said the accusations are false, biased and ridiculous, according to an e-mailed statement. The prosecutor’s jail sentence request “is certainly very high and absolutely disproportionate,” Niccolo Ghedini, Berlusconi’s lawyer and a lawmaker for his party, told reporters after the hearing in comments broadcast by SkyTG24.
The media tycoon-turned-politicians has repeatedly accused the prosecutors of trying to destroy him since he entered politics in 1994. In a separate case, a Milan appeals court upheld last week Berlusconi’s conviction for tax fraud in a film-rights case involving his Mediaset SpA television company. That verdict, issued by a lower court in October, carried a four-year prison sentence. Berlusconi denies all charges in both trials.
On May 6 Italy’s highest court in Rome rejected a request to move both trials to the northern city of Brescia from nearby Milan. The court rejected the lawyers’ claim that the Milan court was biased.
Today’s request by Boccassini marks the final phase of the prosecution in the trial that focused on the former premier’s relationship with Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan nightclub performer nicknamed Ruby Heart Stealer who attended parties at his Milan mansion in February 2010 when she was 17.
The abuse-of-power charge stemmed from Berlusconi’s role in helping secure her release from police custody in Milan after her detention in May of the same year on unrelated theft charges.
Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party currently plays a key role in backing the new government led by Prime Minister Enrico Letta. Letta declined to comment on Berlusconi’s trials when asked by reporters earlier today during a press conference near Siena in Tuscany.
Cabinet members agreed today to scale back participating in political rallies after Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano, who is also the secretary general of Berlusconi’s party, joined in a May 11 protest in Brescia against the judiciary.
-- With assistance from Chiara Vasarri and Alessandra Migliaccio in Rome. Editors: Marco Bertacche, Dan Liefgreen