The exotic dancer at the centre of a sex trial against Italy's Silvio Berlusconi arrived to testify for the first time in court on Monday but the billionaire's lawyers immediately asked for the proceedings to be suspended until after elections in February.
Moroccan-born Karima El-Mahroug arrived in a black coat looking demure amid a scrum of photographers and cameramen outside the courtroom in Milan.
Cameras have been banned from the courtroom but media still crowded around the 20-year-old taking pictures on their mobile phones and tablet devices.
Berlusconi, who has launched his sixth election bid in two decades, is accused of paying for sex with El-Mahroug in 2010 at his mansion near Milan when she was just 17 and he was the prime minister.
Court attendance by El-Mahroug, who used the working name "Ruby the Heart Stealer", had been in doubt after she missed two previous hearings in December saying she was on a long holiday in Mexico.
She is listed among witnesses for the defence but Berlusconi's lawyers told the court on Monday they did not want her testimony any more and asked for a halt to the trial during the election campaign.
Lawyer Niccolo Ghedini said this was to avoid the trial being "exploited" for political purposes.
But prosecutor Ilda Boccassini said: "I ask that this trial be allowed to go ahead because a trial cannot be suspended because of a campaign."
Elections "are not a legal question to be considered by this court," she said.
The panel of three judges has retired to consider its decision.
Italians take to the polls on 24-25 February and the trial had been heading for a verdict next month.
Prosecutors have accused the defence of deliberately trying to draw out the sex trial to avoid a verdict before the general election.
Berlusconi has risen in the ratings since taking to the airwaves with his campaign but some observers say a conviction could end his career.
Berlusconi faces up to three years in prison on the sex charge as the age of consent in Italy is only 14, but sex with a prostitute who is under 18 is a crime.
He is also accused of abusing his official powers by pressuring police to release El-Mahroug when she was arrested for petty theft — a charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of 12 years.
His defence says Berlusconi thought El-Mahroug was a niece of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and wanted to avoid a diplomatic incident.
The 76-year-old, who is also appealing a one-year prison sentence for tax fraud handed out last year, is unlikely ever to see the inside of a prison cell however since sentencing guidelines in Italy are very lenient for over-70s.
Berlusconi denies having sex with El-Mahroug, saying that he gave her money so that she could set up a beauty parlour and avoid having to prostitute herself.
"I never had an intimate relationship of any kind with her," he said in October in his second appearance at the trial which began in April 2011.
"I was sure she was 24, as she herself said," Berlusconi said.
He said the soirees she attended were "burlesque contests" and "elegant dinner parties".
According to transcripts of her questioning by investigators leaked in the Italian press, El-Mahroug said Berlusconi enjoyed lap dances from naked girls at parties that he called "Bunga Bunga" — a term that has since become notorious.
El-Mahroug has also denied a liaison with Berlusconi but was recorded in a leaked telephone wiretap telling a friend that he had said to her: "Ruby, I'll give you anything you want, I'll turn you into gold, just hide everything."
El-Mahroug has said ran away from her immigrant family in Sicily when she was just 14 after suffering physical abuse at the hands of her father.
According to some reports she was then spotted by one of Berlusconi's ageing cronies at a beauty contest and was called to entertain the premier.