Berlusconi trial: 'Ruby' Karima Mahroug at Milan court

Karima el-Mahroug: ''I have always denied having sex for money, especially having sex with Silvio Berlusconi''

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Dancer Karima El-Mahroug - known as "Ruby Heartstealer" - has staged a protest outside a court in Italy to deny claims she was paid for having sex with former PM Silvio Berlusconi.

"I'm not a prostitute. I've never had sex with Silvio Berlusconi," she said in a statement read outside the court.

She is upset over the Milan court's decision not to hear her testimony in the case against the former PM.

He denies paying for sex with her in 2010 when she was aged just 17.

Paying for sex with a female who is under 18 is a crime in Italy.

The billionaire media mogul is on trial in Milan on charges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of power. He has admitted sending Ms Mahroug money, but insists the funds were meant as a gift for friend in need.

'Exploited'

In what the BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome described as an emotionally charged public statement on the court steps, Ms Mahroug said that she had not had a chance to tell the truth in relation to the allegations against her.

Karima El-Mahroug outside the Milan court Ms Mahroug was surrounded by a media scrum outside the court

She said that instead only things that she had told investigators before the trial have been taken into account during proceedings against Mr Berlusconi.

"The press hurt me to hit Berlusconi," she said. "I realise that it is an ongoing war against [him] and I have been involved. But I don't want my life to be destroyed."

Moroccan-born Ms Mahroug complained that the judges' decision not to allow her to testify in the case amounted to "psychological violence".

Our correspondent says that in a bizarre twist she did, however, admit to pretending to be related to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Berlusconi may have believed this untrue assertion, our correspondent says, because on one occasion he is alleged to have phoned officers and urged them to release the grand-daughter of Egypt's president from detention.

Prosecutors say Ms Mahroug and Mr Berlusconi had sex on 13 occasions.

In January Ms Mahroug arrived at the trial to give testimony for the defence. Officials say she had been called twice before, but failed to show up, apparently because she was on holiday in Mexico.

Mr Berlusconi stepped down from a third term as prime minister in November 2011, when he was replaced by the technocrat Mario Monti.

His People of Freedom (PDL) party is hoping to form a centre-right coalition government with another party after it came second in inconclusive February elections.

The case is one of many that have dogged the former leader.

Both it and his appeal against a tax fraud conviction have been delayed until after the Court of Cassation in Rome decides on whether to allow them to be transferred from the northern city of Brescia to Milan.

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