STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports on the trial known as Rubygate.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI: But Berlusconi insists all his dinner parties are elegant and sober affairs, and denounces the charges as part of a communist conspiracy.
SILVIO BERLUSCONI: (Through translator) I am the man most persecuted by magistrates in the history of mankind, throughout the world. I've been subjected to more than 2,500 hearings.
POGGIOLI: Berlusconi has undergone a dozen-odd trials and was mostly acquitted, either thanks to the statute of limitations or changes in the law. In fact, prosecutor Ilda Boccassini - the highly respected Iron Lady of the Italian judiciary - failed to win a conviction against him after false accounting was decriminalized. This is how she described Berlusconi in her closing arguments.
ILDA BOCCASSINI: (Through translator) He is a person who lies to the Italian people. We've been able to prove that all the statements given by Silvio Berlusconi were not true.
POGGIOLI: At 17, she ended up in Milan after catching the eye of a talent scout at a beauty contest, and she started working as a belly dancer at nightclubs. Shortly later, el Marough attended her first party at Berlusconi's villa. According to prosecutors, she has given conflicting versions of events. In a tearful interview on a Berlusconi-owned TV network, she denied having sex with the premier.
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KARIMA EL MAROUGH: (Through translator) He didn't put a finger on me. Why do people have to see bad things when there's nothing bad? After all my bosses put their hands all over me, I finally meet a man who gives me 7,000 euros and doesn't touch me.
POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Milan.
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