Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi made a rare appearance Monday in a closed-door court hearing in Milan for a tax fraud case.
In the case, one of four currently involving the 74-year-old premier, Berlusconi is charged along with other defendants with alleged tax frauds on the sale of film rights by his private broadcaster Mediaset.
|Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures as he leaves the Justice Palace in Milan March 28, 2011|
Before appearing in court for the first time in eight years, Berlusconi in a telephone interview with one of his own TV channels denied wrongdoing and dismissed accusations as " groundless and ridiculous."
"I am the most accused person in the universe and in history," he said, adding that prosecutors and the political left see him as an "ideological and political enemy."
As Berlusconi entered the court house under tight security, he waved to a crowd of reporters and supporters from inside a black car.
"Everything went well," he said later on after coming out from the court building, adding he plans to attend next hearings barring engagements stemming from his official duty.
Groups of supporters and members of Berlusconi's center-right party cheered and shouted words of encouragement, while demonstrators hurled abuse from behind a cordon of hundreds of police.
Supporters said they have gathered outside the tribunal every day since the premier's trials resumed last month, after the partly lifting of a "legitimate impediment" claim that prevented top officials from being prosecuted.
"I am here to say Berlusconi is presently the best political man in Italy, because he has carried out concrete reforms differently from his adversaries who are only able to criticize others. This is the reason why so many people love him," an old man, Umberto Cavaliere, told Xinhua.
Since he entered public life in 1994, Berlusconi has faced at least 17 official criminal and civil allegations.
A trial on allegations he had sex with an underage Moroccan- born club dancer Karima El Mahroug, most often referred to by her stage name "Ruby", will open next week