[QODLink]
Europe

Berlusconi lawyers want fraud case dismissed

Supreme Court to rule on case against former PM that could plunge Italy's fragile coalition government into crisis.

Last Modified: 01 Aug 2013 02:17
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Berlusconi says he has been persecuted by 'leftist' judges since entering politics [Al Jazeera]

Lawyers for Silvio Berlusconi have asked Italy's supreme court to throw out a tax fraud conviction against the former prime minister in a case that could decide not only his future but that of Italy's fragile coalition government.

The Court of Cassation heard more than three hours of arguments from Berlusconi's two lawyers challenging the verdict of a lower appeals court which sentenced him to jail and a ban from public office for the fraudulent purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television empire.

The court then adjourned until Thursday when a court official said the five judges would begin considering their decision at 10am GMT. The court can confirm the sentence, overturn it or send the case back to the appeals court for a retrial because of legal errors.

If the court confirms the sentence, there could be political turmoil in the midst of Italy's worst postwar recession. The weak coalition government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta's centre-left Democratic Party and Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom could be plunged into crisis.

Berlusconi's chief lawyer, Franco Coppi, told the supreme court judges that the lower court had ignored defence arguments that Berlusconi was not directly involved in Mediaset's business dealings after he entered politics in 1994.

He said in any case the court had wrongly framed the charges, which were not fraud but an accounting offence subject to fines rather than a penal sentence.

Persecution claim

On Tuesday, the public prosecutor asked the court to reject Berlusconi's final appeal against a four-year jail sentence commuted to one year under an amnesty. But he said a ban from public office for the four-time prime minister should be reduced from five years to three.

The 76-year-old media tycoon says he has been persecuted by leftist judges ever since he entered politics in 1994, but if he loses the supreme court case it will be his first definitive conviction in at least two dozen trials.

Because of his age, the jail sentence would be served through community service or house arrest. Followers say he would still run his party, which he founded and bankrolls and which has no clear alternative leader.

The supreme court decision is not Berlusconi's only legal headache. He is also appealing against a seven-year jail sentence in June for abuse of office and paying for sex with Moroccan-born nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, alias "Ruby the Heartstealer", when she was underage.

366

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.