[JURIST] Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Thursday was denied his request to replace the presiding judge at his ongoing corruption trial [JURIST report]. Berlusconi's legal team claimed [ANSA report] that judge Nicoletta Gandus was biased after she commented on laws passed by the previous Berlusconi government. They also argued that she had a vested interest in another trial involving Berlusconi because she previously owned shares of Berlusconi's broadcasting company, Mediaset [corporate website]. Berlusconi faces charges of corruption arising from his alleged payment of $600,000 to his former lawyer David Mills for favorable testimony at trials in the 1990s. DPA has more.
Last month, Gandus said that hearings in the case would continue [JURIST report] despite the request for her removal. Also last month, Berlusconi suggested that proposed changes to Italian law [PDF text, in Italian] designed to suspend older trials for nonviolent crimes would allow the country's judiciary to consider more important cases [Senate letter, in Italian] and would give the government time to introduce judicial reforms. The changes would protect high-ranking government officials from prosecution during their terms in office. Critics of the proposal have charged that the move is personally motivated since Berlusconi's trial would be among those suspended. Berlusconi has faced trial on at least six occasions involving charges of embezzlement, false accounting, tax fraud, money laundering, and giving false testimony [JURIST reports] involving Mediaset.