(AP) MILAN - The Moroccan woman at the center of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi's sex-for-hire trial accused investigators Thursday of waging psychological warfare against her but admitted that she had lied in the past to hide her poverty-stricken origins.
In an unusual protest in front of Milan's courthouse, Karima el-Mahroug, better known as "Ruby," read out a tearful, six-page statement Thursday denying she was a prostitute, saying she had never had sex with Berlusconi and insisting that prosecutors hear her side of the story.
"I have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide," el-Mahroug said. She denounced what she called "psychological torture" directed at her by people pretending to help her and also accused the media of having defamed her.
Berlusconi is accused of having paid for sex with el-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.
El-Mahroug's protest came at a politically sensitive time for Italy, as Berlusconi's center-right party is seeking 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 in the coming weeks, 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 from Italy's top three squabbling political blocs.
El-Mahroug has been the most pivotal character in Berlusconi's legal woes, a one-time nightclub dancer who ended up at dinner parties at his home as his second marriage collapsed.
The scandal broke in 2010 when it emerged that Berlusconi had intervened on el-Mahroug's behalf after she was accused of stealing 3,000 euros from a friend and was detained by Milan police. Berlusconi said he did so thinking she was as a relative of Egypt's then-President Hosni Mubarak.
El-Mahroug on Thursday showed an old passport that identified her last name as "Mubarak" and said that bureaucratic error is why she often told lies and identified herself as a relative of the former Egyptian president. She apologized for having created such "fantasy" but said she did so to escape the "poverty and suffering in which I was born into and grew up in before leaving my family in Sicily."
Berlusconi has frequently lashed out at what he calls politically-motivated cases mounted by Milan magistrates.