[JURIST] President of Italy's Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Italian] Gianfranco Fini [official profile, in Italian; BBC profile] said Tuesday that he would support legislation to limit the length of trials in the country. The reforms were proposed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official profile, in Italian; BBC profile], with Fini voicing his support after meeting with the prime minister. If passed, the bill would place a six-year cap on the total duration of a trial, including appeals. Critics have argued that Berlusconi, scheduled to stand trial [JURIST report] later this month on corruption charges from 1997, has pushed for the measure in an effort to avoid his own prosecution. The bill is expected to be introduced in the next few days.
Berlusconi is accused of bribing his former lawyer David Mills [JURIST news archive] in exchange for false testimony at two trials in 1997 and 1998 involving Berlusconis broadcasting company, Mediaset [corporate website, in Italian]. The trials began in 2007, though Berlusconi was removed as a defendant in July 2008 after a now-overturned law granted immunity to top Italian lawmakers [JURIST reports]. In February, Mills was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for accepting a $600,000 bribe, and that conviction was upheld [JURIST reports] last month. 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 on bribery charges was upheld [JURIST reports]. In 2005, Berlusconi was acquitted of corruption charges despite testimony accusing him of giving kickbacks to the late Socialist premier Bettino Craxi [JURIST report].