Berlusconi sex trial delayed over venue change request

A Milan court on Monday announced it will postpone former premier Silvio Berlusconi's sex trial for almost a month, pending a decision on whether to transfer the case to a city where his defence team feels he will get a fairer trial.

The three judges said the case known as "Rubygate", in which Berlusconi is accused of having sex with an underage prostitute, will be delayed until April 22 while Italy's highest court rules on a defence team request to transfer the trial to the nearby city of Brescia.

The request is scheduled to be reviewed on April 18.

Using a 2003 law passed under Berlusconi's government, the media baron's lawyers have accused several Milan judges of "creating a hostile environment" around their client and have asked the court of cassation to move the trial.

The media baron, now 76, is accused of having sex for money in 2010 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.

Last week, the trial was postponed for a week as the court agreed to delay it on the back of Berlusconi's political commitments. It was previously postponed on the grounds that he suffered from an eye infection.

Berlusconi's lawyers have also asked for his appeal of a tax fraud conviction to be moved to Brescia.

Earlier this month, the scandal-fraught billionaire was also convicted over the publication of a police wiretap of a rival politician in a newspaper he owns.