Berlusconi seeks to move trials away from Milan

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This Feb. 7, 2013 file photo shows former Italian Premier and PDL leader Silvio Berlusconi during a campaign rally in Rome. (AP Photo/Mauro Scrobogna, LaPresse, file)

ROME: Silvio Berlusconi's lawyers are seeking to have trials where he is charged with tax fraud and having sex with a minor moved to the city of Brescia from Milan, where they say he cannot get a fair hearing, legal sources said on Friday.

The sources said the former Italian prime minister's legal team based their request on a criminal code clause allowing a case to be transferred when there are serious grounds to suspect a fair decision cannot be reached by the judges handling it.

In past years, attempts to have trials against the 76-year-old billionaire media tycoon moved out of Milan for the same reason have failed.

His lawyers' move was the latest salvo in an escalating battle between Berlusconi and Milan prosecutors, whom he has often accused of trying to destroy him for political reasons.

It coincides with efforts to resolve a stalemate created by last month's deadlocked election and follows a protest on the steps of the Milan courthouse by dozens of parliamentarians from Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party.

He is on trial over accusations he paid for sex with former nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, better known under her stage name "Ruby", when she was under the legal minimum age of 18.

He denies all wrongdoing in the case, which is expected to come to a verdict later this month.

In a separate trial, Berlusconi is appealing against a four-year sentence for tax fraud connected with the sale of broadcasting rights for his Mediaset television empire.

The Daily Star - Lebanon