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Supreme court upholds Berlusconi sex-case acquittal

Ex-premier cleared of paying for sex with underage prostitute

(ANSA) - Rome, March 11 - Italy's supreme court of Cassation upheld an appeals court's decision to acquit ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi of charges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his office to cover up the case late on Tuesday. A court of first instance had found Berlusconi guilty of the charges, sentencing him to seven years in prison. The supreme court's decision is the final word on the case.
    In July a Milan appeals court acquitted Berlusconi of using underage prostitution by paying for sex with a Moroccan dancer called Ruby the Heartstealer, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug. In its explanation of the decision, the appeals court cleared the 78-year-old billionaire of the charge because it said there was no proof Berlusconi knew Ruby was 17 at the time - one year under the legal limit for sex workers. The court said "paid acts of a sexual nature" took place at parties at Berlusconi's Arcore home near Milan. It added that El Mahroug's "uninhibited habits and exhibitionist attitudes" were "perfectly compatible" with the so-called 'bunga bunga' sex parties that took place at Arcore. The court said it had established there was "certain proof of prostitution at Arcore on the evenings when Karima El Mahroug took part (in the parties)". "She spent the night at least twice," it added. The supreme court also upheld the appeals court's decision to acquit Berlusconi of an abuse of office charge, related to a phone call he made to a Milan police station after El Mahroug was detained on an unrelated theft accusation.
    The appeals court had said Berlusconi was afraid of "the risk of compromising revelations" and had "a personal, concrete" interest in seeing she was handed over to then Lombardy regional councillor Nicole Minetti and not to a youth home.
    Minetti, a former dental hygienist of the ex-premier who was elected for his centre-right Forza Italia party, collected Ruby from the police station along with a Brazilian alleged prostitute who had contacted Berlusconi to tell him the girl was in trouble after being reported by a fellow alleged callgirl.
    Berlusconi "did not threaten" police to get them to release Ruby by claiming she was the niece of former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, the court said.
    It said this was why he was cleared of the abuse-of-office charge, for which he was sentenced in the first-instance trial to six years.
   

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