(photo credit: REUTERS/Tony Gentile)
MILAN - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's trial on charges he paid for sex with an underage prostitute should be put on hold for months until Italy's top court decides which judges have jurisdiction, his lawyers said on Monday.
In a legal submission, Berlusconi's lawyers said a Milan court has no jurisdiction in the case and that Berlusconi should be tried by a special tribunal for ministers. Italy's top court is due to rule on the matter in early February.
A suspension would buy Berlusconi's defense time and avoid more negative headlines for the weakened premier, who faces a string of scandals and is fighting to stave off a market crisis threatening to send Italy's debt sliding out of control.
The prostitution trial centers on accusations that he paid to have sex
with Moroccan-born teenager Karima El Mahroug, a nightclub dancer known
by the stage name of Ruby.
Berlusconi is also accused of telephoning Milan police officers last May
to have her released from custody when she was detained over theft
allegations, in order to avoid a scandal.
Berlusconi says he did not have sex with El Mahroug. He has acknowledged
making the phone call to police, in which he said El Mahroug was the
granddaughter of then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but says he did
not exert any improper influence. (Reporting by Manuela D'Alessandro,
writing by Silvia Aloisi, Editing by Barry Moody)