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Berlusconi's bunga bunga appellate trial opens as ex-premier does 7th day of community service

MILAN - Silvio Berlusconi's legal challenge to a conviction of paying for sex with an under-age prostitute opened Friday as the ex-premier spent his seventh morning working with Alzheimer's patients as part of a tax-fraud sentence.

Berlusconi is appealing a conviction, seven-year prison sentence and lifetime ban from politics. He denies having had sex with a Moroccan teenager, Karima el-Mahrough, better known as Ruby the Heart-Stealer, amid a wider scandal of racy, sex-fueled "bunga bunga" parties at the then-premier's villa near Milan.

The appeals trial is focused on technicalities and is expected to conclude in four sessions, with a possible verdict July 18.

Berlusconi, 77, is performing community service four hours a week as part of his sentence for tax fraud. The four-year sentence was reduced to one year under a general amnesty, which can be applied to first convictions.

Verdicts in Italy are not considered final until all appeals are exhausted, which usually means a final appeal to Italy's supreme Cassation Court.

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