Next Hearing in Berlusconi 'Rubygate' Trial on June 14


The next hearing in Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's sex trial will take place on June 14, a Milan court ruled on Monday at a hearing not attended by the premier, media reported.

Prosecutors in the "Rubygate" affair, in which Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with Moroccan-born Karima El Mahroug, better known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer", when she was 17, will respond to defense submissions on June 14.

Lawyers for the prime minister presented a series of complaints at a session last week, including a challenge to the court's right to hear the case.

Berlusconi denies paying for sex with the minor on several occasions between February and May last year, a crime punishable by three years in jail.

He is also accused of abuse of power for allegedly pressuring police to have her released from custody when she was arrested for theft.

The defense claims the premier ensured El Mahroug was released in order to avoid a diplomatic incident because he mistakenly thought she was the niece of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Berlusconi's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini previously said he should be tried in a special court for ministers if judged to have been acting in an official capacity.

A final hearing before the summer break will take place on July 18 when the court will issue its ruling on matters raised by the defense.