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Protests in Italy -- 'after Mubarak, Berlusconi'

Sunday February 13, 2011 10:30:38 AM, DPA

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Rome: A group of Italian protesters, who call themselves the Purple People, organized a weekend of demonstrations in several cities against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, demanding his resignation over allegations of sex with underage prostitutes.

"After Mubarak, Silvio Berlusconi," hundreds of protesters chanted in Rome Saturday, creating quite a stir as they banged cooking pots and spoons. "Unworthy Berlusconi, this is not my head of government," one banner said.

The Purple People have several times in the past organised, over the internet, a "No-B(erlusconi) Day" in Rome. The rallies were attended by artists, journalists, trade unionists and other citizens.

Italians will take to the streets again Sunday, in protests largely organized by women's groups who say the premier has hurt their dignity. They also object to the indecent representation of women in newspapers, advertising and on television.

"Italy is not a brothel," one of their slogans says. Another reads, "If not now, when?"

Prosecutors Wednesday filed a request for Berlusconi to stand trial on charges of having had sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of power.

The charges against the 74-year-old premier stem from evidence, including wire tappings, which suggest Berlusconi paid several women for sex, including at least one minor - a Moroccan go-go dancer who was 17 when she first attended a party at his house.

Prosecutors have asked for a fast-track trial, a procedure which does not require a preliminary hearing, meaning the conservative premier could be in the dock before Easter.

The move represents another blow for Berlusconi, who in the wake of the sex scandal has faced repeated calls for his resignation from the centre-left opposition and criticism from the influential Catholic Church.

The media mogul-turned-politician has endured a year of ongoing scandals relating to his alleged affairs. At the end of 2010, Berlusconi narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence in parliament.







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