MILAN — The Moroccan woman at the center of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s sex-for-hire trial held an unusual protest Thursday in front of Milan’s courthouse, accusing investigators of waging psychological warfare against her and manipulating her testimony during interrogations.
Karima el-Mahroug, better known as Ruby, read a tearful, six-page statement denying that she was a prostitute, insisting that she had never had sex with Berlusconi, and demanding that the court hear her side of the story.
‘‘I have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide,’’ Mahroug said. She denounced what she called ‘‘psychological torture’’ directed at her by people pretending to help her and also accused the media of defaming her.
The 21-year-old admitted, however, that she had lied in the past to hide her poverty-stricken origins.
Berlusconi, 76, is accused of having paid for sex with Mahroug while she was a teenager during his infamous ‘‘bunga-bunga’’ parties at his villa near Milan, and then trying to cover it up. Both deny sexual contact.
Mahroug’s protest came at a politically sensitive time for Italy, as Berlusconi’s center-right party seeks to muscle its way into a governing coalition after coming in second in inconclusive February elections. Parliament is also poised to elect a new president, a highly politicized process given that the new president will have a major role to play in calling new elections if no government can be formed among Italy’s squabbling political blocs.
Mahroug has been the most pivotal character in Berlusconi’s legal woes, a onetime nightclub dancer who left her family in Sicily as a young teen and ended up at dinner parties at the home of the prime minister as his second marriage collapsed.
The scandal broke in 2010 when it emerged that Berlusconi had intervened with police on Mahroug’s behalf after she was accused of stealing money from a friend.