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TV, photographers denied access to Berlusconi sex trial

Ban for 'security', reporters with notebooks allowed

31 March, 16:18
TV, photographers denied access to Berlusconi sex trial (ANSA) - Milan, March 31 - Television crews and photographers will not be granted access to the first hearing next Wednesday of a Milan trial into allegations Premier Silvio Berlusconi used an underage prostitute, prosecutors said Thursday.

A judge had previously authorized the presence of photographers and TV crews of state broadcaster RAI, who were then supposed to made the footage available to other networks.

However, Milan prosecutors have overruled that decision for ''security reasons'' and to stop the cameras influencing the evidence witnesses give.

Reporters with notebooks and sound recorders will be able to attend the first part of a trial that has shocked Italy and hit frontpage headlines around the world.

Berlusconi denies paying to have sex with a Moroccan runaway and belly dancer called Ruby before she was 18 and also rejects charges he allegedly abused his position to get her out of jail after an unrelated accusation of theft last May.

He says left-leaning prosecutors have trumped up the accusations and those in three separate corruption trials he faces to oust him from power.

Prosecutors, however, say they have evidence showing the premier paid for intercourse with 33 alleged prostitutes after so-called 'bunga bunga' sex parties, including Ruby, who they say he slept with 13 times when she was 17 after she was allegedly recruited at a beauty contest at the age of 16.

The premier has said the allegations, which carry a combined jail term of 15 years, are absurd, because of his age and because he has a secret girlfriend who would not have allowed such behaviour.

''I'm (almost) 75 years old and although I'm naughty, 33 girls in two months seems a bit much even for a 30-year-old,'' Berlusconi recently told Rome-based daily La Repubblica. ''It's too much for anyone.

''And then there's an extra hurdle... I have always had next to me a girlfriend who I have luckily been able to keep out of all this sleaze. If I had done everything they say, she would have clawed my eyes out. And I assure you, she has very long nails''.

Ruby has also denied ever having sex with Berlusconi and said money he gave her was a gift.

The premier has called witnesses including George Clooney, who has a villa on Lake Como, the Hollywood star's Italian girlfriend Elsabetta Canalis and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo as witnesses in his defence.

Clooney says he only ever met Berlusconi to appeal for aid for Darfur while Canalis has denied Ruby's claim she saw the pair at one of the premier's incriminated parties.

Ruby, who is now 18 and whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, claims she had sex with Real Madrid star Ronaldo after meeting him at a Milan disco in January 2010. The star, currently the highest-paid footballer in the world, has denied meeting Ruby or giving her 4,000 euros for sex.

photo: Karima El Mahroug, aka Ruby.