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Italian PM under investigation in prostitution case

01-15-2011 08:25 BJT

ROME, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Premier Silvio Berlusconi is being investigated in a case involving a minor prostitute and received a request Friday to appear before Milan prosecutors.

The news came a day after Italy's constitutional court struck down part of a controversial immunity law that protected the 74-year-old premier from legal problems.

Berlusconi is being investigated for allegedly having sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan dancer, nicknamed Ruby by the local media, from February to May last year.

He is also being investigated for abuse of power by getting the dancer, who has since turned 18, out of Milan police custody on the night of May 27, local media reported.

Berlusconi on the night allegedly called the Milan police station to have the girl, who was being held on a theft complaint, released because she was the "granddaughter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak."

The prime minister then sent Nicole Minetti, a Lombardy regional councilor, to take the girl away from the police station.

Minetti, whose offices were searched by polices Friday, is now also under investigation for aiding minor prostitution, The ANSA news agency reported.

Berlusconi said at the time that he had done nothing wrong, and that he had only intervened to help someone in need. The girl said in newspaper interviews that she had been at the premier's villa and that she lied about being over 18. She denied having sex with the premier.

The girl has in the meantime turned 18.

ANSA said Milan prosecutors on Friday summoned Berlusconi. Reports also said police on Friday searched the offices of two of his aides.

Berlusconi's attorneys, Nicolo Ghedini and Piero Longo, confirmed the investigation, saying the probe represented a "very serious interference in the prime minister's private life that has no precedent in the country's judicial history."

They called the case media-driven, and said that the allegations "have already been refuted by all witnesses and people directly involved."

The investigation escalates a long history of accusations of sexual and financial improprieties aimed at Berlusconi, a billionaire businessman who has shaken off the crises and maintained his hold on power.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court struck down part of the immunity law, allowing individual judges overseeing specific cases to decide whether the prime minister's attendance in court was necessary.

The move revoked the so-called "legitimate impediment" claim that would allow Berlusconi and other top officials from being required to enter the courtroom.



Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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