A Milan judge on Tuesday ordered Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial in April on charges of paying an under-age girl for sex and abuse of office, dealing the most serious blow to his leadership in the 17 years that he has dominated Italian politics.
In a brief statement, the judge said the trial would start on April 6. Mr. Berlusconi faces charges that he paid for sex with Karima el-Mahroug, then an under-age nightclub dancer nicknamed Ruby Heart-Stealer, and that he abused his office to help release her from police custody when she was detained for theft. The scandal has dominated political debate in Italy for months, according to New York Times.
Berlusconi, 74, could face three years in prison on the juvenile prostitution charge and up to 12 years on the charge of abusing his official authority. But, because of his age, he is unlikely to be jailed if convicted.
The decision to indict represented the latest in a string of devastating blows to the billionaire politician. His wife left him in 2009. Last year, he was deserted by the man who had stood at his side since he entered politics in 1994, his former deputy, Gianfranco Fini.
Since then, Berlusconi has struggled to keep his rightwing government afloat. On Sunday, half a million women turned out to protest at the entrenched sexism they accuse it of representing, in one of the biggest demonstrations seen in Italy in recent years, The Guardian reports.