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Italians split on accusations against prime minister

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Charges, pressures add up for Berlusconi
  • Milan prosecutors are investigating whether Berlusconi paid for sex with a minor
  • Some ordinary Italians say they don't care about the scandal
  • Others say it's shameful for the country
  • An opposition lawmaker wants Berlusconi to step down

Rome (CNN) -- Prosecutors in Milan, Italy, are investigating allegations that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi paid for sex with a minor, a case that has stirred scandal, but not in every quarter.

Some Italians have no problems with the allegations of their leader's sexual escapades that have garnered so much attention.

"Who cares? I am so sick and tired of this story. What happens in a private home is his business and I don't want to know," said Nicoletta Cosimini, the owner of a lingerie shop.

Such an attitude is a throwback to an unspoken tradition in Italy of successful men taking on girlfriends and lavishing them with gifts. Many frown upon this, but it remains acceptable to others.

"Those men who say that Berlusconi should be ashamed of himself, I say to them, 'Why?'" said clothing store owner Simonetta Giannini. "Wouldn't you like to do it? You all do and you are just jealous. There are more serious troubles in this country than to go after Berlusconi's whores."

Berlusconi has denied that he has ever paid for sex.

Berlusconi denies ever paying for sex

In Italy, having sex with a prostitute is not a crime -- unless she is a minor. El Mahrough, nicknamed Ruby, is the nightclub dancer at the center of the most recent headache for Berlusconi. She is now 18, but was 17 at the time of the alleged activity, from February through May. Ruby has said in an interview she told everyone she was 24.

They both deny having had sex with each other, but a roommate of Ruby's said in a court document that Ruby admitted to having had an affair with the premier when she was 17.

Prosecutors are looking into it as a prostitution-with-a-minor case, though some wonder if Ruby's involvement with Berlusconi qualifies as prostitution. Ruby's former roommate told police, "I remember that she would say that she was a close friend of the Prime Minister ... she said she was often in the premier's house, where she had dinner, danced and had sex with him and who gave

her a lot of money."

Berlusconi says that the prosecutors have no jurisdiction to investigate him, while opposition lawmakers have urged him to speak with them.

"We think he should just go and tell what he thinks is his truth," opposition lawmaker Giovanna Melandri told CNN. "If he has any dignity, he should leave the post and allow Italy to start again with a political leader who is not engulfed in scandal."

Other Italians were also not forgiving of their prime minister.

"It shames me as a citizen, as a man, and as a father," a businessman said. "We have to keep our values. If not it would be total anarchy. It is disgusting what he does and even more disgusting that pages and pages of media go after this stuff because there is even worse and more serious trouble in this country."

A grocery man, Marcello Picchione, also denounced Berlusconi's alleged actions.

"Unfortunately it is nothing we didn't know. It happens everywhere. I'm not surprised but it disgusts me that our prime minister does those things," he said.

CNN's Hada Messia contributed to this report.