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ROME – In an unexpected move, lawyers for Italian Prime Minister and billionaire media mogul Silvio Berlusconi have said they will call for the testimony of actor and sometimes Italy resident George Clooney as part of their plan to defend the prime minister against charges of abuse of power and paying a minor for sex.
The trial gets underway April 6, but the list of 78 proposed defense witnesses was released Wednesday. In addition to Clooney, the eclectic witness lists includes Clooney’s Italian girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis, showgirls Aida Yespica and Belen Rodriguez, and Italian television personality Barbara D’Urso.
The lawyers did not say why they were asking for Clooney’s participation in the trial. And for his part, Clooney said he was “stupefied” by the request. “It’s very strange,” Clooney said according to a statement from his agent released to the Milan daily Corriere della Sera. “I have met Berlusconi only once, and even then it was only to solicit his help for Darfur.”
Berlusconi is already on trial in two other cases, one alleging he bribed British lawyer to lie in court on Berlusconi’s behalf and another for tax evasion and illegal kickbacks related to the acquisition of content for the Mediaset broadcast giant Berlusconi controls.
But the April 6 trial will be the most high profile of the cases. In that trial, the 74-year-old Berlusconi will face charges that he paid a 17-year-old cabaret dancer known as Ruby the Heart Stealer for sex and then illegally used his influence to have her released after being picked up for shoplifting. If convicted on both counts, Berlusconi could face up to 15 years behind bars.
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