Berlusconi's lawyers want Clooney to testify at sex trial
Published 30/03/2011 | 05:00
Lawyers defending Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in an underage prostitution case want George Clooney and his Italian girlfriend to testify at the premier's upcoming trial.
"Mr Clooney has been included in the list of the defence witnesses," Piersilvio Cipolotti, one of Mr Berlusconi's lawyers, said yesterday.
"He was cited in court documents as a guest of Mr Berlusconi at one of the dinners the premier organised and we want to ask him to confirm this."
The witness list will go forward to be approved by judges.
Mr Berlusconi was ordered to stand trial, on February 15, on charges of abuse of power and paying a minor for sex, fueling calls for his resignation amid a deepening clash with Italy's judiciary.
The trial, which starts in Milan on April 6, will examine his ties to Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan dancer nicknamed 'Ruby the Heart-stealer' who attended at least one party at his mansion near Milan in February 2010 when she was 17.
Ms El Mahroug has been cited in Italian media as saying in court documents that she was present at a dinner there along with Clooney and his Italian girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis. Mr Cipolotti confirmed she made the statement to prosecutors.
The abuse-of-power charge stems from Mr Berlusconi's role in helping secure Ms El Mahroug's release from police custody in Milan after her detention in May on unrelated theft charges.
The premier referred to Ms El Mahroug as a relative of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak when he phoned the police on her behalf, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told parliament in November.
She is not related to Mr Mubarak.
Still, Mr Berlusconi's lawyers say he mentioned his relationship with Ms El Mahroug to the Egyptian leader during a meeting with Mr Mubarak last year.
"For this reason we included the Egyptian interpreter who was at that meeting in the witness list," Mr Cipolotti said.
Other defence witnesses include Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Education Minister Maria Stella Gelmini.
Mr Berlusconi (74), who has denied any wrongdoing, has called the charges "disgusting" and "groundless".
Mr Cipolotti said Mr Berlusconi was "highly unlikely" to attend the first hearing of the trial due to official duties.
Clooney won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in the movie 'Syriana'. He was also nominated for Oscars for roles in 'Michael Clayton' and 'Up in the Air'.
Clooney's girlfriend, Italian model and TV star Elisabetta Canalis, is also on the list.
Lawyers acting for both the defence and prosecution submitted their witnesses yesterday in preparation for the trial.
Although it is for the judges to decide who appears as a witness, Ms Canalis is believed to have denied being present at the party in question at the prime minister's villa near Milan in February 2010.
Among the other named defence witnesses are supermodel Belen Rodriguez and TV presenter Barbara d'Urso.