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Berlusconi sex trial adjourned after brief preliminary procedures

A Milan court has completed preliminary matters in the sex trial of Italian premier Berlusconi and adjourned the trial until May 31. Berlusconi did not appear for the brief court session, which lasted only a few minutes.

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi

The Italian premier has remained defiant despite calls for his head

The sex trial of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi opened in a Milan court on Wednesday. The premier is charged with paying for sex with an underage Moroccan prostitute.

After briefly addressing preliminary matters, the presiding judge adjourned the trial until May 31.

Prosecutors also accuse Berlusconi of abusing the powers of his office by intervening on behalf of the prostitute, go-go dancer Karima El Mahroug, when she was briefly held by police on suspicion of theft. The move was allegedly aimed at covering up his liaison with her.

Neither Berlusconi nor El Mahroug appeared in the Milan court Wednesday.

The case against the media mogul went ahead in spite of a vote by parliament in which a narrow majority challenged the jurisdiction of the court.

Berlusconi's supporters argued he should be tried by the Tribunal of Ministers, which deals with offenses committed by public officials in the execution of their duties.

But the vote was not binding: the Italian Constitutional Court now has to rule on the matter and it could take several months before a verdict is delivered.

Small victory

Nonetheless the vote represents a victory for the embattled premier whose parliamentary majority has been eroded by a split last year in his People of Freedom party.

Opposition groups held protests in Rome and other cities ahead of the trial in Milan, chanting "shame, shame" following the vote in parliament.

"Parliament is still being used to solve the problems of a single person - Silvio Berlusconi - while in Italy there are so many problems left unsolved," said Gianfranco Mascia, a spokesman for the Purple People, a group that has organized a series of anti-Berlusconi protests in recent months.

Berlusconi is also facing court over allegations of fiscal fraud and breach of trust in his Mediaset business empire.

Author: Darren Mara, Matt Zuvela (dpa, Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Michael Lawton

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