Italian Appeals Court Overturns 2013 Sex with Underage Prostitute Conviction Against Former PM Silvio Berlusconi
By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | July 21, 2014 6:25 PM EST
Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi is now a freed man after an Italian appeals court overturned a lower tribunal's guilty verdict handed down in June 2013.
Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (R) sits near a television monitor showing images of him and his wife Veronica Lario during the taping of television program Porta a Porta (''Door to door'' in Italian) in Rome May 5, 2009.
The Milan Court slapped Berlusconi a 7-year jail time for having sex with an underage prostitute as well as a lifetime ban to ever seek public office again.
His lawyers had said they would appeal the convictions because the former premier had not been given a fair trial.
Prosecutors told the court Berlusconi not only had sex with underage dancer Karima el Mahroug, also as "Ruby the heart-stealer," for 13 times, but the former top leader of Italy also abused his power when he ordered her release from jail in May 2010 on charges of theft.
El Mahroug and other young women performed stripteases and erotic actions at "bunga bunga" parties. Berlusconi denied any misbehaviour. El Mahroug likewise admitted stripping down to her lingerie, but there was "no contact" with the disgraced four-time prime minister Berlusconi.
"I am deeply moved," Berlusconi said in a statement after the ruling. "Only those who have been close to me over the years know what I have suffered because of this unfair and disgraceful accusation."
The ruling of the appeals court could be overturned if prosecutors file a final appeal, this time with Italy's top court. If the court decides to uphold the verdict, the prison term and ban automatically goes into effect.
"The decision goes beyond our rosiest predictions," Franco Coppi, Berlusconi's lawyer, told reporters after the ruling. "This demonstrates that the previous sentence was indefensible."
Berlusconi was Italy's prime minister for nine years in total, making him the longest-serving post-war prime minister of Italy, and third longest-serving since the unification of Italy. He was the leader of the centre-right party Forza Italia from 1994 to 2009, and its successor party The People of Freedom from 2009 to 2013.
He is currently acting as leader of a revived Forza Italia since November 2013.
As of April 2014, after the Unipol case had been completed with the ruling "acquittal due to statute of limitations," Berlusconi is involved in three ongoing court trials.
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