Start of Berlusconi trial in Milan lasts only minutes

The trial of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on charges of sex with a minor and abuse of power opened here Wednesday.

Neither Berlusconi nor the minor, dancer and teenage prostitute Karima el Mahrough, best known by her stage name "Ruby", attended the hearing, which lasted less than 10 minutes and was adjourned until May 31.

One of Berlusconi's lawyers, Giorgio Perroni, presented the court with a letter in which the premier said he would like to participate but was unable to because of "institutional commitments".

Giorgio Perrone, lawyer of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, smiles in front of the Milan court, Italy, Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Security measures were tight around the courthouse in Milan, with about 100 police surrounding the building to prevent riots between groups of supporters and opponents of the premier gathered on a traffic island opposite the building.

More than 100 journalists from around the world requested accreditation for the trial, while TV crews, barred from the hearing, were setting up camp outside the courthouse.

The 74-year-old Italian premier is accused of paying for sex with Moroccan-born el Mahrough from February to May 2010 when she was 17 years old, and then abusing his power in trying to cover it up.

Both Berlusconi and el Mahrough, who is now 18, have denied any wrongdoing in the case.


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