Italian judges defend colleagues in Berlusconi sex inquiry

Italy`s Prime Minister has denounced the sex scandal probe as politicised.

Rome: Judges investigating the sex scandal surrounding Silvio Berlusconi should be respected, their governing body said on Friday even as Italy`s Prime Minister denounced the probe as politicised.

"Once again this offensive was and will be rebuffed," Berlusconi said in a videotaped message to his supporters that was released on their Internet site.

"We have the force of the people," he added.

His remarks come as Michele Vietti, deputy head of the Superior Council of Magistrates (CSM), defended the justices probing the scandal.

"The magistrature`s activities do not have subversive intentions," Vietti said at a ceremony marking the new judicial year.

Milan prosecutors investigating 74-year-old Berlusconi over allegations he had sex with minors and consorted with prostitutes he kept in luxury apartments have been attacked by the Prime Minister and allies as politically motivated.

The billionaire media magnate has denounced the investigation as a "new, very serious attack on the part of the magistrates who have trampled on the laws for political ends" and "want to use the affair as a political weapon".

On Thursday, Il Giornale newspaper, owned by Berlusconi`s family, gave front page priority to a 1982 case in which Ilda Bocassini, one of the judges involved, was called before the CSM for "unsuitable behaviour" with left-wing journalists. The case was eventually dropped.

"The magistrature deserves respect, above all from those who are also servants of the state," Vietti said during the ceremony.

"It is by carrying out trials that... one can establish who is in the wrong and who is in the right," Vietti.

Berlusconi has been criticised for refusing to appear before the Milan judges. He has refused to obey a summons for questioning, claiming the Milan court is not competent to carry out the investigation.

For their part, the three judges leading the investigation into Berlusconi`s lurid sex life plan to call for fast-track proceedings against him in the next few days, according to ANSA news agency, citing judicial sources.

Bureau Report