It was a major setback for the 74-year-old premier,
whose personal entanglements have for months overshadowed the business
Whether he will lose his job as prime minister
remains unclear. Despite a nonstop stream of scandals surrounding both
his business dealings and personal life, Berlusconi has managed to stay
in power owing to a fragmented opposition, the loyalty of his proteges
in parliament and his control of most of
Members of Berlusconi's People of
"The Italian judiciary, through a risible investigation, is trying to overturn the democratic order," said
But opposition leaders called for Berlusconi's resignation and immediate elections.
"Berlusconi should defend himself before the (court) as do all citizens who have nothing to hide," said
Berlusconi's business practices are already the subject of three other court proceedings. This will be the first to center on his personal behavior.
A self-made billionaire-turned-politician, he will
not be required to appear in court himself, leaving his team of lawyers
to combat charges that he paid to have sex with
While the age of consent is 14 and prostitution in general is not illegal in
Mahroug, who has since turned 18, was a regular attendee of Berlusconi's notorious private parties, which guests have described in media interviews and in wiretapped conversations as full of prostitutes. The "bunga bunga" parties routinely featured stripteases and erotic games, attendees said.
Both Berlusconi and Mahroug deny that they had sex. But Mahroug has said that Berlusconi gave her jewelry and about
Prosecutors allege that when Mahroug was arrested in
Prosecutors accuse Berlusconi of intervening in order to prevent his and Mahroug's relationship from coming to light. Berlusconi says he stepped in merely out of compassion for a young woman in a tough spot.
His lawyers insist that prosecutors in
The decision Tuesday came down two days after
hundreds of thousands of women staged protests against Berlusconi in
After the decision was released, one of Berlusconi's attorneys,
Berlusconi denies that he insults women's dignity. He has said that, on the contrary, he tries to make women feel "special" and that loving women is preferable to being gay.
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