MILAN (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi accused Italian prosecutors on Friday of threatening a senator with jail to force him to say the billionaire former prime minister paid him to join his center-right party.
The bribery allegations against Berlusconi come as parties including his People of Freedom (PDL) formation maneuver to form a government after an inconclusive election that left no party with a majority in parliament.
Sergio De Gregorio, a senator formerly with the Italy of Values party, joined Berlusconi's party in 2006, forcing the collapse of a coalition supporting then Prime Minister Romano Prodi.
Naples prosecutors are investigating accusations that Berlusconi paid De Gregorio 3 million euros to change sides.
In an interview with the daily Il Messagero on Friday, De Gregorio said he told magistrates he took money to join Berlusconi's formation, known then as Forza Italia, and bring down Prodi's government.
Berlusconi said De Gregorio had only made the statement after magistrates threatened him with imprisonment.
"It was certainly the prosecutors who put De Gregorio in the position of having to choose between going to jail or saying something against me," Berlusconi told reporters at a court in Milan where he was attending a separate fraud trial.
He said his party would organize a demonstration on March 23 to protest against the magistrates' investigation.
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)
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