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Berlusconi corruption trial set for November 27

[JURIST] Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official profile, in Italian; BBC profile] will stand trial for corruption charges on November 27, according to court officials Saturday. The trial date follows a decision [JURIST report] by the Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] earlier this month, which struck down [press release, DOC, in Italian] a 2008 law granting immunity from prosecution to the four highest officials of the country, including Berlusconi. The corruption charges stem from reported payments from Berlusconi to his former lawyer David Mills [JURIST news archive] in order for Mills to provide false testimony at two trials in 1997 and 1998 involving Berlusconi's broadcasting company, Mediaset [corporate website, in Italian]. Berlusconi has said that he will serve out the remainder of his term [AP report] even if he is convicted. He has called [AFP report] the charges dishonest, and has said he is being persecuted by the courts.

Bribery and corruption trials against Berlusconi and Mills began in 2007, but Berlusconi was removed as a defendant in July 2008 after the new law granted top Italian lawmakers immunity from prosecution [JURIST report] while in office. In February, Mills was sentenced [JURIST report] to four-and-a-half years in prison for accepting a $600,000 bribe, and that conviction was upheld [JURIST report] last week. Berlusconi has faced trial on at least six occasions involving charges of false accounting, tax fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, and giving false testimony [JURIST reports]. In October 2007, Berlusconi's April 2007 acquittal [JURIST reports] on bribery charges was upheld. In 2005, Berlusconi was acquitted of corruption charges despite testimony accusing him of giving kickbacks to the late Socialist premier Bettino Craxi [JURIST report].

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