Berlusconi corruption trial begins without him

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ROME -- The long-awaited corruption trial of beleaguered media tycoon and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi finally got underway Friday, and though Berlusconi was not present in the courtroom, it seems all but certain he will be forced to appear in the coming weeks.

The trial has been delayed twice: once to rule on a motion that the judge be removed and once after Berlusconi collapsed at a political rally and spent three days in the hospital.

The actual start was anti-climatic -- consisting of attorneys for each side filing documents -- but the trial itself promises to be dramatic. While the billionaire media tycoon has been dogged by legal problems for most of the last 15 years, he has never actually appeared in court to answer charges.

The trial also seems sure to be wide-ranging as Berlusconi's 13 co-defendants hail from four different countries. On Thursday, police in Los Angeles raided the home and office of producer Frank Agrama at the request of Italian law enforcement, which believes Agrama may have been party to a plan to inflate the price of television rights to help pay for millions in kickbacks.

It is not clear yet whether the producer of the horror film "Dawn of the Mummy" and dinosaur flick "The Lost World" will be required to appear in Italian court in connection with the case.
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