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Clooney called as witness for Berlusconi sex trial

Silvio Berlusconi has called Hollywood star George Clooney and his glamorous partner among his defence witnesses when he goes on trial next month accused of sleeping with an under-aged prostitute.

Clooney and Elisabetta Canalis are among an illustrious list of trial witnesses, featuring well-known Italian TV presenters, actors, journalists and politicians.

Ruby, the Moroccan teenager at the centre of the scandal, told prosecutors during questioning that Clooney and his Italian actress partner were among the guests at one of Mr Berlusconi's parties.

However, the claim has been denied by Ms Canalis.

Clooney, a well-known human rights activist, said he could recall meeting the Italian leader only on one occasion, about aid to Africa.

"It seems odd since I've only met Mr Berlusconi once and that was in an attempt to get aid into Darfur," Clooney said in a statement.

Prosecutors, for their part, have asked to hear from 136 witnesses, including Ruby, whose real name is Karima el-Mahroug, and 32 other women who allegedly worked as prostitutes during parties at Mr Berlusconi's villa.

Both sides presented their lists of witnesses at the Milan tribunal where the trial opens next week. A judge must now decide which witnesses to admit.

Italian newspapers reported months ago that Ruby had said Clooney, who has a mansion on Lake Como north of Milan, and Ms Canalis were guests at one of Mr Berlusconi's parties.

According to a February 22 report in leading Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, prosecutors talked with Ms Canalis last month and she denied that she and Clooney had attended any of the premier's parties.

Mr Berlusconi (74) is accused of having paid for sex with Ruby who was 17 at the time.

He is also accused of abusing his influence when he called police in May to get Ruby out of custody in Milan, where she had been held for an unrelated theft. She was eventually released.

Mr Berlusconi also faces two other trials and a possible indictment relating to his business dealings.

He denies wrongdoing.

hnews@herald.ie