Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official website, in Italian; JURIST news archive] attended a hearing in Milan on Monday to defend himself against charges of fraud and embezzlement. Berlusconi has not attended a case hearing for more than seven years [BBC report]. He is currently a defendant in four trials. Berlusconi is accused of inflating the price paid to buy television rights for his company Mediatrade to fund political activities. The appearance is a rarity for Berlusconi who has been a defendant in close to 50 trials but has consistently stayed away from the court. He stated that we will attend as many trials as he can.
Berlusconi also faces trial for underage prostitution [JURIST report] on April 6. In February, an Italian judge ordered Berlusconi to stand trial on charges of paying for sex with a minor and abuse of power. Berlusconi allegedly paid 7,000 euros to then 17-year-old dancer, Karima El Mahroug, for sex and later called police to secure her release [BBC report] while she was detained on an unrelated suspicion of theft. The scandal has made Berlusconi the subject of protests [Reuters] by hundreds of thousands of women, calling for his resignation over his recent sex scandal. Berlusconi, however, has refused to step down. Also in February, an Italian court resumed a tax fraud case [JURIST report] against Berlusconi. The case was re-opened after the Constitutional Court modified a law [JURIST report] aimed at giving Berlusconi and other public officials temporary immunity from charges while in office. That same month, Berlusconi solidified his intentions to remain in office by pledging judicial reform [JURIST report] and several other improvement he plans to make in Italy.