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Ex-ministers testify in Berlusconi hearing

Carfagna says ex-premier is being put through a 'media trial'

12 November, 13:49
Ex-ministers testify in Berlusconi hearing

     (ANSA) - Milan, November 12 - Ex-minister of education Maria Stella Gelmini and former equal opportunities minister Mara Carfagna testified on Monday in the trial of Italian ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi for alleged sex with an underage prostitute and alleged abuse of power.

      The two former members of Berlusconi's government answered questions from the ex-premier's defense lawyer, Niccolo' Ghedini.

      Gelmini told the court that she had been a guest at Berlusconi's villa at Arcore outside Milan on several occasions "but always for work" and never when "young girls were present".

      The two former ministers were called to testify based on a deposition by Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan runaway and nightclub dancer also known as Ruby that Berlusconi allegedly paid for sex when she was under 18.

      Ruby said that on one of the evenings at Berlusconi's villa on February 14, 2010, Carfagna and Gelmini were present.

      Gelmini testified that she had never met Ruby and that on February 14, 2010 she was pregnant and at home with her husband.

     Upon leaving the court, Carfagna told reporters that the trial seemed more like a "media trial".

      Carfagna said that she did not have an idea of the direction the trial was taking, because she was not "aware of the facts...we have to simply wait for the judges' decision".

      The ex-premier stands accused of abuse of power for allegedly persuading police to release Ruby after an unrelated theft claim to hush up their relationship.

      Berlusconi has said he was trying to avoid a diplomatic incident as he believed Mahroug was a relative of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

      The charge of having sex with an underage prostitute carries a jail term of up to three years, and abuse of office 12 years.

Photo: Former equal opportunities minister Mara Carfagna.