The date of April 6 has been set for the trial of Italy’s scandal-hit prime minister.
It is then that Silvio Berlusconi’s lawyers will have to defend him against charges of abuse of power and paying for sex with an under-age prostitute.
The indictment sheet was issued by a court in Milan, where three female judges will examine the evidence. Berlusconi is not obliged to appear in person before the judicial panel on that day.
The case concerns allegations that he paid for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan dancer, then intervened to try to free her when she was arrested for theft.
His supporters say the whole case is politically motivated.
Analyst James Walston said that while the charges were serious, Berlusconi is not the resigning type:
“He is a fighter; he has survived many other accusations and indictments even though he has been found guilty but let off. The other point, which makes this different from the corruption charges and from the slush fund accusations, it’s a very clear and obvious charge.”
But Berlusconi’s legal team is playing down any threat and dismissing the case. His lawyer Francesco Paolo said: “I think it is really difficult to talk of an under-age prostitute, when that woman denies both the sexual intercourse and having been paid.”
Berlusconi’s term in office has been beset by scandal and corruption allegations, but this latest criticism of his behaviour recently mobilised public anger as never before.