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An Italian court on Monday decided to postpone all future hearings in Silvio Berlusconi's sex trial until after this month's election to allow the former premier to continue campaigning, judicial sources said.
In the so-called "Rubygate" trial that began in 2011, the billionaire tycoon is charged with paying for sex with a minor and for abusing his powers.
The Milan court upheld a request from Berlusconi's legal team who cited campaign interviews and other political activities as a "legitimate impediment" to justify delaying the trial until after the February 24-25 election.
The next hearing will now be on March 4.
Prosecutor Ilda Bocassini denounced the ruling, saying it was part of Berlusconi's "delaying strategy", demanding the court rapidly delivers a verdict once the trial is resumed.
Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with Moroccan-born Karima El-Mahroug, also known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer", in 2010 when she was just 17.
Berlusconi faces up to three years in prison on the sex charge and is also accused of abusing his official powers by pressuring police to release El-Mahroug when she was arrested -- a charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of 12 years.
Critics have said the media magnate and three-time premier is only running for office to stay out of jail.
A court last week also agreed to postpone Berlusconi's appeal against a tax fraud conviction until March 1.