Berlusconi defence denies sexual antics at his villa

Milan, June 4 (IANS/AKI) Silvio Berlusconi's defence laywer has denied that erotic soirees took place at the former prime minister's villa near Milan and that his client did not pay for sex with underage Moroccan teenager Karim El-Mahroug.

A sentence is expected in the trial June 24.

Prosecutors are seeking a six-year jail term and lifetime ban from public office for Berlusconi, whose conservative People of Freedom party is a key player in Italy's coalition government.

In his closing arguments, lawyer Nicolo Ghedini said Berlusconi did not pay for sex with El-Mahroug, nicknamed "Ruby the heart stealer", who was 17 at the time of their alleged encounters.

He also denied that the billionaire premier pressured police in an effort to cover up the alleged encounters.

Ghedini called the sentence sought by prosecutors "stratospheric and extraordinary".

He accused judges in the trial of being "culturally similar" to purportedly left-wing prosecutors who Berlusconi and his defence have accused of waging a politically motivated campaign against him.

In sworn testimony, El-Mahroug, who is now 20, denied she had sex with Berlusconi or witnessed any sexual activity at his villa in Arcore outside Milan.

Dozens of young women at the trial have given "more or less similar" accounts of the evenings, which they described as "normal" dinner parties, Ghedini said.

Most prosecution witnesses who described erotic antics at the dinner parties were not there between February and May 2010 when El-Mahroug allegedly attended and was paid for sex with Berlusconi.

Berlusconi and El-Mahroug deny having sex.

But El-Mahroug has testified in a parallel trial of three of his associates for pimping, that she received envelopes with several thousand euros inside as "gifts" each time she attended a party, plus an extra 30,000 euros to open a beauty salon.

--IANS/AKI

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