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Court denies Berlusconi bid to halt sex trial

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2013 at 2:20 pm •  Published: January 14, 2013
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Ghedini had filed a motion to suspend the proceeding, citing the demands of Italy's election campaign. The prosecution opposed the request, arguing that Berlusconi was neither the formal head of his party nor its official candidate for premier, and that he has infrequently shown up for trail anyway, as is his right.

In their ruling, the judges said Berlusconi's absences for a political campaign were a personal choice and couldn't be compared with having a parliamentary obligation — which has been accepted as a legitimate reason to delay a trial.

Ghedini told reporters that the campaign and Berlusconi's role in vetting a list of nearly 1,000 candidates was directly related to the parliament and "of great political and institutional relevance."

Berlusconi's center-right coalition is facing the center-left Democratic Party, which is leading, and centrist parties united under a Monti agenda. Berlusconi has long accused Milan magistrates of mounting politically inspired campaign against him — an allegation they deny.

Berlusconi faces two other cases in Milan, including the appeal set to begin Friday of his conviction for tax fraud and four-year sentence last October. Ghedini said he will seek hearing-by-hearing delays in the pending trials citing Berlusconi's election commitments.

As the trial nears its close, Ghedini said he wanted to call six other witnesses on his list who hadn't yet appeared, including actor George Clooney, Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and el-Mahroug's mother.

Clooney has said he was approached by Berlusconi's team to testify about the "bunga bunga" parties, but says he only visited the premier's residence once to seek aid for Darfur and declined an invitation to stay.

Ronaldo and his lawyers have reportedly denied the Portuguese forward was even in the same city as el-Mahroug, much less had any personal contact.

"Those reports are completely false. I do not know the woman that they are talking about. I have never met her and never got together with her. On December 29, 2009, I was in Madrid training with the team," Cristiano Ronaldo said in a press release last February.

The court is expected to decide Monday on the request to hear from the additional witnesses. Two more hearings were set, on Jan. 28 and Feb. 4.

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Harald Heckle in Madrid contributed to this report.