Court delays Berlusconi's sex-for-hire trial

AP News
Posted: Mar 13, 2013 1:44 PM

MILAN (AP) — A Milan court on Wednesday delayed former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's sex-for-hire trial after receiving new medical documents confirming that an eye inflammation has prevented his attendance.

Berlusconi has been hospitalized since Friday, and his legal team has sought delays in two trials that are nearing verdicts at a politically delicate moment for Italy.

Berlusconi's center-right coalition finished second in last month's inconclusive election. Parliament is to convene Friday, setting the stage for talks on forming a new government.

Both courts have asked for court-appointed doctors to certify his condition, enraging lawmakers in Berlusconi's center-right coalition who marched on the Milan courthouse earlier this week. The protesters allege that magistrates are trying to sideline Berlusconi legally, following his surprisingly strong showing during the February election.

The courthouse protest drew criticism from political opponents, who said it undermined Italy's judicial system. President Giorgio Napolitano convened lawmakers to discuss the action and urged all sides to show balance.

Berlusconi's sex-for-hire case's next session will be Monday, with two more hearings later in the week and another March 25. That's unusual in Italy, where trials often are held just once a week.

Berlusconi is accused of having paid for sex with an under-age Moroccan teen during one of the now-infamous "bunga bunga" parties at his villa, then trying to cover it up.

Berlusconi told Panorama news magazine about the seriousness of his eye ailment, which has kept him hospitalized for six days.

"Good sense says that I would be someplace else representing the interests of 9 million voters," Berlusconi was quoted as saying.

A Milan court is also hearing Berlusconi's appeal on a tax fraud conviction, which led to a four-year sentence in October. The court went on with the hearing as scheduled Saturday after court doctors visited Berlusconi and said his condition was not serious enough to keep him away from court.

Doctors have since said Berlusconi also has suffered heart issues.

A judge in Naples is also considering prosecutors' request for an accelerated trial against Berlusconi on corruption charges for allegedly having paid a lawmaker €3 million ($3.9 million) to switch to his party, a move that seriously weakened the previous government of Romano Prodi. The lawmaker has admitted accepting €2 million under the table.