Italian PM Berlusconi A No-Show As Sex Trial Begins Neither the 74-year-old prime minister nor the young woman involved showed up in court Wednesday, and the judge ruled it an unexcused absence. The trial, dubbed Rubygate, will resume May 31. The prosecution intends to show a sordid side of the conservative politician, while Berlusconi insists he is the victim of a leftist plot to topple him from power.
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Italian PM Berlusconi A No-Show As Sex Trial Begins

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Italian PM Berlusconi A No-Show As Sex Trial Begins

Italian PM Berlusconi A No-Show As Sex Trial Begins

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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.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV BROADCAST)

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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