Berlusconi loses bid to move trial

July 18, 2011 - 11:14 AM
Italy Financial Crisis

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, left, and finance minter Giulio Tremonti vote over a crucial €70 billion ($99 billion) austerity package aimed at convincing investors that the eurozone's third-largest economy won't be swept into the debt crisis, at the lower house of parliament, in Rome, Friday, July 15, 2011. Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government had fast-tracked approval of the austerity measures and increased their size after markets plummeted this week on worries over Italy's financial stability. The measures were approved by the lower house, after passing in the Senate on Thursday. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

MILAN (AP) — Lawyers for Premier Silvio Berlusconi lost a bid Monday to move his trial on charges of having paid for sex with an underage teen.

Berlusconi's lawyers had petitioned the court to move the trial out of a Milan criminal court to the Tribunal of Ministers, which deals with offenses committed by public officials in the execution of their duties. A panel of three judges denied the motion — along with a raft of others, including one to dismiss the charges.

Defense lawyer Niccolo Ghedini told reporters the judges had committed "very serious violations of the law."

"In any other part of Italy, the charges would have been dismissed against the premier today," Ghedini was quoted by the news agency ANSA as saying.

The defense team, however, has not given up on its efforts to move the trial out of Milan. In a separate move, Berlusconi's allies in parliament have appealed to the country's highest court with a request that the trial be turned over to the Tribunal of Ministers. The court has agreed to consider the request, but a decision isn't expected until after this summer.

The transfer would be significant because, unlike an ordinary court, the Tribunal of Ministers needs parliament's authorization if it wants to try Berlusconi — which would likely be denied since the premier's allies have a majority.

Ghedini said he did not expect to seek a suspension in the under-age prostitution trial pending the court's decision. The trial has been suspended for the summer holidays until Oct. 3.

Monday's rulings clear the way to begin testimony in the sensational trial, one of four cases pending against the premier in Milan courts.

Berlusconi's lawyers also defended him Monday in another trial in which he is accused of having paid a witness to lie on the witness stand to protect his business interests.

Berlusconi denies all charges in each of the cases, and claims the Milan court is politically slanted against him.