Berlusconi may face trial over prostitution witness

BARI Italy Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:55pm EDT

Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi arrives for a party rally in Milan May 23, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi arrives for a party rally in Milan May 23, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo

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BARI Italy (Reuters) - An Italian prosecutor has asked a court to try Silvio Berlusconi for paying 750,000 euros ($1 million) to buy the silence of people aware that he used prostitutes, legal sources said on Friday.

Pasquale Drago, a prosecutor in the southern city of Bari wants the court to try the 77-year-old center-right leader and an accomplice for "inducement to give false testimony" by paying a local businessman not to tell investigators about the prostitutes he allegedly provided for Berlusconi's parties.

The court will hold a preliminary hearing to decide on whether to charge Berlusconi on Nov. 14, the sources said.

Berlusconi has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing during the investigation, which began in 2009, and he accuses prosecutors of using their power to try to destroy him politically.

In a separate case, Berlusconi has been convicted for abuse of office and paying for sex with a minor in a trial held in Milan, known as the Ruby case, but he is appealing and a final ruling in that appeal may come next week.

Berlusconi received a definitive conviction for tax fraud last year and was stripped of his seat in parliament and given a four-year jail sentence, commuted to a year's community service which he is serving at an old people's home near Milan.

The ruling has not kept him from politics, and he continues to lead Forza Italia, the party he founded in 1994.

Forza Italia came in third in the May European Parliament elections, posting its worst result in almost two decades, amid Berlusconi's legal troubles and his struggle to renew his party. ($1 = 0.7331 Euros)

(Reporting by Vincenzo Damiani; Writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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