An Italian court on Monday resumed the trial of Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on tax fraud charges [JURIST report], just weeks after the Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] modified [JURIST report] a law [materials, in Italian] that would have granted Berlusconi and other public officials temporary immunity from charges while in office. The court first suspended [JURIST report] Berlusconi's trial last year to consider the legitimacy of the original law that would have postponed criminal proceedings against him for 18 months. The law now gives the courts the power to assess the severity of the charges to determine if each separate charge is a legitimate impediment to performing official duties. Berlusconi was absent [ANSA, in Italian] for Monday's hearing. His lawyers, however, did not invoke a claim for legitimate impediment based on his absence, according to reports. Berlusconi's next hearing for the tax fraud trial is set for April 11.
While awaiting his tax fraud trial, Berlusconi first faces trial for underage prostitution [JURIST report] on April 6. Earlier this month, an Italian judge ordered Berlusconi to stand trial on charges of paying for sex with a minor and abuse of power. Berlusconi allegedly paid 7,000 euros to then 17-year-old dancer, Karima El Mahroug, for sex and later called police to secure her release [BBC report] while she was detained on an unrelated suspicion of theft. The scandal has made Berlusconi the subject of protests [Reuters] by hundreds of thousands of women, calling for his resignation over his recent sex scandal. Berlusconi, however, has refused to step down. Last week, Berlusconi solidified his intentions to remain in office by pledging judicial reform [JURIST report] and several other improvement he plans to make in Italy.