Wed, 31 May 2023

MILAN, Italy: Prosecutors in Milan are seeking a six year prison term for former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for allegedly bribing witnesses in a 2013 underage prostitution case.

Officials claimed Berlusconi paid 24 people to lie in a previous trial, when he was charged with paying for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan nightclub dancer.

Leader of the center-right Forza Italia party, Berlusconi was eventually acquitted and pleaded not guilty in the subsequent bribery trial.

Berlusconi's lawyer, Federico Cecconi, said he was not surprised by the prosecutors' jail request, stating, "We believe there is no crime," as quoted by Reuters.

The prosecutors are also seeking sentences of between one and six years for 27 other defendants in the case, including the nightclub dancer, Karima El Mahroug.

The trial, which began in 2017, will resume in June and a verdict is expected no earlier than the end of September.

Berlusconi, 85, also faces two other bribery cases in courts in Rome and Siena, but all three trials have been repeatedly postponed due to his frequent health problems.

Originally found guilty of paying to have sex with El Mahroug, who was 17 at the time and considered a minor by Italian law, Berlusconi was sentenced to seven years in jail.

But the verdict was overturned in 2014 by an appeals court, which ruled there was no proof he had known her age.

After a conviction for tax fraud in 2013, Berlusconi was temporarily banned from political office, but the ban has since expired.

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