Sultan Berlusconi on Trial

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Silvio Berlusconi will be the first head of a G-7 state to be arraigned in court on charges of paid sex with a minor.

A few days ago, the court from Milan issued a subpoena for the Italian premiere, on a charge that could carry a penalty of 15 years of prison. This April 6, sugar daddy Silvio will face three adult female judges from Milan, the Italian women that the press here in Italy call his "Nemesis."

A right wing commentator of the TG1, one of the TV channels owned and controlled by Berlusconi himself, said: I believe in his innocence, but by the time he proves that, his reputation will be gone forever. And to tell the truth he worked hard on that himself! What on earth did he think he was doing when he meddled with minors and showgirls?

The Church as well as Catholic believers are divided. It's not about sex, says one of the high ranked church officials: hardly any Italian anymore confesses those misdeeds as sins. It's his way of doing it. Then there's the hardcore of Italian machismo, who aspire to that level of misbehavior themselves, and frankly admire Berlusconi for his orgies.

"Ruby The Heartstealer," the Moroccan illegal belly-dancing minor, was the last-known in the lengthy chain of Berlusconi's sweethearts. Ruby may have triggered a final avalanche of shameful publicity that will crush the lascivious premiere… but, Ruby nevertheless just cheerily appeared in Italian television, in black lingerie, peddling a tell-all book. Italians have always adored sexy foreign girls: Belen Rodriguez, the Argentinian top model, is the star of the Sanremo music festival although she cannot sing, and also the spokesmodel for a wireless Internet service, though her appeal is by no means high-tech. Italy's high-fashion business puts a premium on female beauty, not to mention a bald market price.

So what did Berlusconi do so wrong in his unfortunate dalliance with Ruby, and the numerous other girls that he invited to his home and paid generously? The court in Milan issued 27 pages of evidence. Ruby was a minor when she was partying "bunga bunga" style at his place, and he knew it. Ruby was caught stealing from friends, and he freed her from the police although the cops had her in custody as a minor. Ruby was an illegal immigrant, and he smilingly promised to forge her papers for her.

Finally, he arranged to deceive the Italian police by absurdly claiming that Ruby was the niece of recently deposed president Hosni Mubarak, in order to set her free. In short, Berlusconi abused his political position and flouted the law so as to keep his harem running smoothly. This cost him hundreds of thousands of euros given away to girls as presents, cars, and lodgings. Ruby at a certain point asked for 5 million euros in hush money, and that didn't seem to be a problem.

Berlusconi answered to the subpoena with a stonewalled denial and a large smile: he refuses to speak to press about sex scandals, he bluntly refuses the authority of the Milanese court, and has no fears of the consequences to the state or himself. He is trying however to move the case away from the court in Milan to a kinder jurisdiction that he can control, or possibly buy.

Last night, at the festival of Sanremo, the Oscar wining Italian author and actor Roberto Benigni, gave a long, emotional speech about the subject of a united Italy. March 17, 2011 is the sesquicentennial of the country's unity, and San Remo was draped in tricolor Italian flags. 2011 is a symbolic year for Italian democracy and the Italian national way of life.

The new economic data are showing Italy as the slowest-growing EU country. The expectations of Italian young people are very low, if not nonexistent. The nation is torn by the anti-federalist demands of right-wing parties, which want to split the country into rich regions (theirs) and poor regions (everyone else). Long-standing cultural differences among Italian regions are being exaggerated and manipulated, as the power-brokers quarrel over the shares of a pie that grows smaller. Petty regional bosses are fighting for more autonomy and their own power centers.

Divide and reign, united we stand. We are stronger together, said Benigni in his moving speech. He analyzed word by word an idealistic poem written by a twenty-year-old Risorgimento martyr for Italian unity: the Italian anthem. We cannot give democracy away, we cannot squander it, Benigni appealed.

Today, Wikileaks on Italy is published by major dailies. These leaks from the American state department have become a kind of news agency that bluntly states truths about Italy that every Italian already knows. Americans are increasingly worried about Italian national stability, and not merely because of its leader's reckless sex scandals. His relationship to the autocratic Putin, his prolonged overtures to the tyrant Moammar Gadhafi, his crooked money interests, organized corruption methods and mafia connections… His rude remarks to other heads of state and his sheer unpredictability all worry the American Big Brother. But he is still useful, they conclude.

Meanwhile, in a YouTube clip mentioned on the front pages of all the Italian press, Roberto Benigni is singing, with his quivering tender voice, the anthem to the tricolor flag inspired by the legendary Dante and his vision of beautiful Beatrice. Next to this glorious peak of Italian high culture, we have excerpts of the young Moroccan girl's evidence, where she explains that: "Bungabunga" means an orgy of nude dancing girls. This jolly term was borrowed from Gadhafi by the premiere's amazing seedy entourage of pimps and madames, most of them happily employed in Italian political life, when not busy catering to Berlusconi's private amusements. Bungabunga participants get power and money in the all-too-blatant privacy of the sultan' s castle, and in Italian public life as well; they fight the outside world to protect their cozy racket, and fight each other inside over their share of the spoils.

The Italian women of all ages and views, who held a one-million demonstration a few days ago all over Italy, protested that the sultan of the nation has no right to transform Italy into a bordello. It's a democratic state and a major Western power, not a brothel for an ultra-wealthy mogul. But to say that and to prove it are two different things. Is Italy just a "geographical expression," as the foreign diplomats used to say before the Risorgimento?

Jasmina: blog, Twitter