Berlusconi sex trial halted until after election

MILAN Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:44pm IST

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi speaks during a political rally in downtown Rome, February 7, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi speaks during a political rally in downtown Rome, February 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi

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MILAN (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi's trial on charges of paying for sex with a minor will be postponed until after this month's election due to his campaign commitments, Italian judges ruled on Monday.

The next hearing in the trial will now be held on March 4, a week after the February 24-25 elections. Milan judges upheld an argument from Berlusconi's legal team that his political campaign constituted a legitimate impediment to his attendance.

The 76-year-old media magnate and leader of the centre-right coalition, who faces separate trials for tax fraud and other offences, has had all his trials postponed until March.

The so-called "Bunga Bunga" scandal, in which Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with an underage night-club dancer, was among factors that accelerated his demise as prime minister in late 2011, at the peak of the euro zone debt crisis.

Berlusconi has conducted a vigorous television campaign which has enabled him to pick up support in opinion polls but his centre-right alliance still lags the centre-left Democratic Party.

(Reporting by Manuela D'Alessandro; Writing by Antonella Ciancio; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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