Seven years jail for Berlusconi, appeal likely | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 24.06.2013
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Seven years jail for Berlusconi, appeal likely

Silvio Berlusconi has been convicted to 7-years jail at the close of a sex-for-hire trial known as "Rubygate". The judges also barred Italy's ex-premier from holding public office, but he has two more levels of appeal.

A Milan court has convicted ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on charges of paying an underage Moroccan teen for sex in 2010 at infamous "bunga bunga" parties at his villa and then abusing his powers by trying to cover up the encounter with phone calls to Milan police officials.

Berlusconi, 76, and Karima El-Mahroug, nicknamed Ruby, who is now 20, but was only 17 at the time, had denied having had sex with each other.

Neither was in court on Monday as the three female judges began deliberating near the close of the high-profile two-year trial.

The verdict came after seven hours of deliberation. The sentence will be suspended until the appeals process has been exhausted, which in Italy's justice system could take years.

The prosecution had asked for a six-year jail term, as well as the life time ban.

Outside the courtroom, a lawyer for the media mogul, Niccolo Ghedini, said an appeal would be lodged.

"This is beyond reality," Ghedini said. "I'm calm because I've been saying for three years that this trial should never have taken place here."

'Prostitution system'

In her summing up speech last month, prosecutor Ilda Boccassini had said El-Mahroug had been "part of a prostitution system set up for the personal sexual satisfaction of the defendant."

President of the court Giulia Turri (C) reads the sentence for former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in Milan June 24, 2013. The Milan court sentenced Berlusconi on Monday to seven years in jail and banned him from public office after finding him guilty of paying for sex with a minor and abusing his powers of office to cover up the affair. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

Court president Giulia Turri delivers the verdict

Boccassini said the dancer quickly became the premier's "favorite."

Although Berlusconi no longer holds official government posts, Italy's current cross-party coalition, headed by Prime Minister Enrico Letta, relies on the support of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party.

Last month, a Milan court upheld a tax fraud conviction against Berlusconi. That conviction is frozen pending an appeal.

Berlusconi has frequently has railed against Milan prosecutors and judges, accusing them of mounting politically motivated cases against him.

ipj/rg (AP, Reuters; dpa)