The Moroccan woman at the center of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi's sex-for-hire trial, accused investigators on 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 on 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.