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Italy's high court says Berlusconi trials to stay in Milan

People of Freedom (PDL) party member and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attends the Upper house of the parliament in Rome, April 30
People of Freedom (PDL) party member and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attends the Upper house of the parliament in Rome, April 30

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's top appeals court on Monday rejected a request by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to move two trials he faces out of Milan where, he has maintained, he cannot get a fair trial.

Berlusconi's lawyers argued that prosecutors and judges at the Milan court have "persecuted" the center-right leader for his conservative politics.

The 76-year-old media magnate is not a member of the current government, but his party is one of the main supporters of Enrico Letta's broad right-left coalition.

Berlusconi is appealing against a four-year sentence for tax fraud linked to his Mediaset television empire and a separate trial on charges of paying for sex with a minor after the now-notorious "bunga bunga" parties at his Milan villa.

The ruling means that a hearing for an appeal of the tax fraud conviction involving film rights bought by Mediaset will be held on Wednesday in Milan. Mediaset shares dropped more than 2 percent after the ruling was announced.

The Milan court said last year Berlusconi should serve a four-year prison sentence in the Mediaset case. He will not face the prospect of jail unless he loses two appeals, the first of which is ongoing.

His trial for paying for sex with a minor also will continue in Milan, with the next hearing scheduled for May 13.

(Reporting by Robert Landucci; Writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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