Berlusconi to defend himself in under-age prostitution trial

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Silvio Berlusconi, who faces trial for having allegedly paid for sex with a Moroccan teenager, will defend himself in court, as long as he doesn't have to show up more than once a week, his lawyer said yesterday.

Mr Berlusconi is defending himself in the prostitution case as well as in other trials involving his business empire.

The most sensational of the cases against him, which is set to begin on 6 April in Milan, sees the Prime Minister defending himself against charges that he improperly used his office in an attempt to cover up the alleged paid-for sexual encounter at his private villa with a17-year-old dancer.

Mr Berlusconi has denied ever having paid for sex. He has insisted that in this case, as with all the other criminal probes and trials against him, he is the innocent victim of prosecutors who sympathise with the opposition left.

Other cases against the Prime Minister include a trial over the sale of film rights by one of his media companies. In another, Mr Berlusconi is accused of having bribed the British lawyer David Mills to lie in court in the 1990s to protect Mr Berlusconi's business interests. That case continues on Friday.

Mills was convicted in 2009 of having taken a US$600,000 (£368,700) bribe, but the verdict was overturned last year when Italy's highest criminal court ruled the statute of limitations had expired. That decision having been overturned in January has paved the way for a retrial.

Mr Berlusconi yesterday said that at a special meeting, set to be held in a few days, he and his cabinet will work on "epochal" reforms of the Italian justice system. Among the proposed reforms are strict limits on the use of intercepted telephone conversations by prosecutors. Italian media have recently run such recordings of young women who were invited to parties at the PM's private residences.