MILAN – Silvio Berlusconi made a rare court appearance Friday to deny some of the more salacious accusations at the center of a sex scandal in Italy that has muddied his reputation.
The former premier said he never had sex with an underage Moroccan teen, never paid for sex with any guest at his villa near Milan and denied that "bunga-bunga" parties that he held were in any way sexual.
"The expression 'bunga-bunga' comes from a joke that I have repeated many times, and that has been picked up viciously by the media," Berlusconi said during an appearance at his trial on charges of having paid for sex with Moroccan teen Karima el-Mahroug and trying to cover it up.
Berlusconi's declaration was spontaneous, a practice that Italy allows defendants and which does not have the weight of testimony. His lawyers have indicated that Berlusconi does not intend to testify.
Berlusconi said Friday that his long history of legal battles, mostly for his business dealings, also discouraged him from taking the stand.
The case is the first involving the three-time former premier's personal behavior. Berlusconi stepped down as premier last November after failing to persuade financial markets he could come up with convincing reforms to protect debt-laden Italy from the sovereign debt crisis.
While he is still head of his conservative political movement, the 76-year-old Berlusconi has been coy about whether he intends to run for office next spring when the mandate for a technical government headed by Premier Mario Monti expires.
Berlusconi has repeatedly denied the charges in the sex scandal.
In court Friday, Berlusconi said he "never had intimate relations of any kind" with el-Mahroug, better known as Ruby. He also said he believed she was 24 years old based on her own statements and that she was the niece of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
In fact, she was 17 and no relation to Mubarak, who was forced to step down and is in a prison in Cairo.
"I can exclude with absolute certainty that there were ever any scenes of a sexual nature" at the Arcore villa, Berlusconi said, noting that his adult children were present at the parties and that he himself "monopolized attention singing, talking about sports, politics and gossip."
He also said he never paid for sex with any guest and said insinuations that his female guests were escorts had damaged their reputations.
If convicted of the charge of using his influence to cover up a crime, Berlusconi could be barred from public office. That charge stems from calls he made to the Milan police station the night of May 27-28, 2010, after el-Mahroug was picked up on suspicion of theft. She was later released without charges.
"I never put pressure on any official with whom I spoke," Berlusconi said. "I simply asked for information."
The next hearing was scheduled for Oct. 26, when the defense has named George Clooney and his former girlfriend Italian actress Elisabetta Canalis among the witnesses it has called. It was not clear if either would appear.
Clooney has said he was approached by Berlusconi's team to testify about "bunga bunga" parties at Berlusconi's villas, but says he only visited the premier's residence once to seek aid for Darfur and declined an invitation to stay.