Berlusconi sex trial suspended until mid-May

An Italian court on Monday delayed until at least May 13 the resumption of a trial against former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for allegedly paying for sex with a then 17-year old prostitute.

The Milan court postponed the trial while it waits for a decision by Italy's supreme court on whether to consider an appeal by Berlusconi's defence team to move the trial to another city.

The media magnate's lawyers have accused several Milan judges of "creating a hostile environment" around their client, and argue he will get a fairer trial in nearby Brescia.

The supreme court's decision is expected on May 6. Should it rule the case will stay in Milan, it will resume on May 13.

If it decides the trial should be moved, however, the hearings could be delayed further.

Berlusconi is accused of having sex for money when he was prime minister in 2010 with Karima El-Mahroug, an exotic dancer nicknamed Ruby the Heart Stealer.

He faces 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.

El-Mahroug is expected to testify in May in a separate trial against three Berlusconi allies -- starlet turned politician Nicole Minetti, newsreader Emilio Fede and talent scout Lele Mora -- for allegedly procuring dozens of young women for torrid parties at the billionaire's house.

In October, the three-time premier was sentenced to a year in prison and handed a five-year ban from holding public office for fraud linked to his business empire Mediaset, but the punishment has been suspended during the appeal process.

The 76-year-old media baron faces the next hearing of his appeal against that conviction on May 8.