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Govt seeks to be civil plaintiff in Berlusconi trial

SECURITY
Govt seeks to be civil plaintiff in Berlusconi trial

The Italian prime minister's office on Wednesday presented a petition to be a civil plaintiff in a bribery trial against former premier minister Silvio Berlusconi linked to his alleged 'bunga bunga' sex parties.

Three young women who attended the parties at Berlusconi's villa near Milan, Ambra Battilana, Chiara Danese and Imane Fadil have also asked to be civil plaintiffs in Berlusconi's trial for allegedly paying several young women to lie under oath about the sex parties.

A lawyer for Battilana and Danese said the women's lives had been "irreparably ruined" by the negative publicity surrounding the notorious “bunga bunga” nights in Arcore.

Berlusconi's trial for the alleged bribery opened on Wednesday but proceedings were adjourned to 3 July after a brief hearing.

Prosecutors in the current trial accuse Berlusconi of paying 10 million euros to 17 young women between 2011 and 2015 to commit perjury at his earlier trial for paying for sex with a minor and abuse of office.

In their testimonies at the 2013 trial, the showgirls backed up Berlusconi's claim that he had only held "respectable dinner parties" at his Arcore villa.

Of the total 10 million euros of alleged bribes Berlusconi forked out to the showgirls, seven million euros went to Moroccan former nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, who he was accused of paying for underage sex in 2010 when she was 17.

Berlusconi's defence claims the payments to El Mahroug and the other young women were "acts of generosity". He has 80 witnesses lined up including TV presenter Barbara D'Urso and former education minister Mariastella Gelmini who are ready to testify to his willingness to help others.

Berlusconi was initially convicted in the 2013 trial and sentenced to seven years in jail for paying an underage prostitute for sex and abusing his powers of office for trying get Mahroug released from police custody for alleged petty theft from her flatmate.

But he was acquitted of both charges in 2015 following an appeal. The judge said he could not have known that El Mahroug was a minor.

The appeals court ruling, however, concluded that “there is certain proof that Karima El Mahroug was involved in prostitution at (Berlusconi's villa in) Arcore".

Berlusconi is still leader of his centre-right Forza Italia party but his influence has waned along with the party's popularity.

Even if he is convicted in the latest trial, he is unlikely to go to prison due to Italy's limitations on penal sanctions against the elderly.

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