MILAN - Milan prosecutors on Wednesday requested an immediate trial for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, accused of abuse of power and having sex with an underage girl nicknamed Ruby the heartstealer.
In a statement released to the press, the prosecutors said they had "sent the examining magistrate a request for an immediate trial on the basis of sufficient evidence" for both offences. Chief prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati and his fellow judges allege that the 74-year-old leader paid for sex with nightclub dancer Ruby, who was 17 at the time, and improperly used his power as prime minister by requesting police release her after she had been picked up for alleged theft in May.
Under Italian law, the fast-track procedure of summary judgement, which skips preliminary hearings and goes straight to the trial, can be requested by the public prosecutor's office when there is clear evidence of an offence. Berlusconi has denied ever paying for sex, let alone with Ruby, who turned 18 in November 2010. His lawyers also claim the Italian leader did not abuse his power when he told police to release Ruby, because he believed she was the niece of the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which was untrue.
Berlusconi had therefore been carrying out his duty by intervening to help a fellow leader and reduce diplomatic fallout, they say. But the prosecutors also sent a legal memo Wednesday in which they reject the possibility that the offences had been committed by Berlusconi in his role as prime minister. There had been no "ministerial crimes," they said.
The charges are being kept separate from the probe into starlet and television agents Lele Mora and Emilio Fede, and ex-oral hygienist Nicole Minetti, all under investigation for instigating prostitution. Examining magistrate Cristina Di Censo will now have at least five days to come to a decision and could fix a start date for the trial for sometime in the coming months.
But should she decide the request lacks sufficient proof to warrant a speedy process, magistrates will then have to try to bring Berlusconi to trial through normal, more lengthy channels. Di Censo will also have to decide whether the Milan court is competent to judge the case. Berlusconi's lawyers claim the prime minister can only be judged by a special court for members of parliament.