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Court orders medical checks on Italy's Berlusconi


A court in Milan on Monday ordered medical checks for Silvio Berlusconi to verify whether the hospitalised former Italian prime minister is really unable to attend hearings in his trial for having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of power.

The trial had already been suspended on Friday because the 76-year-old Berlusconi said he was suffering from an eye infection. His lawyers have asked for Monday's hearing to be postponed too.

Prosecutors had been due to present their final arguments and make their sentencing requests in a high-profile trial that began two years ago.

The results of the checks should be known in the coming hours.

Berlusconi has been in hospital in Milan since Friday, with his defence saying the infection has become particularly painful in recent days.

His doctors say Berlusconi also has hypertension.

The media baron is accused of having sex for money with the then 17-year-old Karima El-Mahroug, an exotic dancer nicknamed Ruby the Heart Stealer.

Berlusconi risks up to three years in prison on that charge and up to 12 years for allegedly putting pressure on police to have her released from custody when she was arrested for petty theft.

Both Berlusconi and El-Mahroug deny having sex.

Berlusconi is also appealing a tax fraud conviction linked to his business empire. That hearing was allowed to go ahead on Saturday.

Last week the scandal-fraught billionaire was also convicted over the publication of a police wiretap of a rival politician in a newspaper he owns.