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Ex-Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi to face new trial over corruption charges

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been ordered to stand trial later this year. He is accused of bribing witnesses in a sex scandal case.

Berlusconi will be required to stand trial later this year over charges that he bribed witnesses while being investigated for allegations that he paid to have sex with young women.

Judge Carlo Ottone De Marchi set April 5 as the date of the trial, which is to be held in Milan.

The charges are related to a case from several years ago in which the former Italian prime minister was accused of paying to have sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan named Karima El Mahroug, better known by her stage name Ruby the Heartstealer. Though initially convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison, Berlusconi was cleared in 2015 following an appeal.

Now, the ex-prime minister is accused of having given around 10 million euros ($11 million) in payments and gifts to witnesses in the case in exchange for them testifying in his favor. Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing, insisting that he was merely being generous.

Ongoing legal battles

His lawyer, Federico Cecconi, responded acerbically to the court order. "There is a concrete chance of a judge agreeing that an offense of generosity has been committed," Cecconi said, according to the AFP news agency.

The 80-year-old media tycoon was originally to have stood trial with others facing corruption charges, but his case was made separate due to his health conditions.

Even if he were convicted, Berlusconi would likely not face jail time thanks to Italy's restrictions on prison sentences for the elderly.

Though he remains the head of his Forza Italia political party, Berlusconi has seen his influence decline in recent years, thanks in part to numerous legal challenges he has faced. In 2013, he was barred from seeking office after being convicted of tax fraud.

blc/sms  (AFP, AP, Reuters)