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Italy court rejects Berlusconi's request to suspend trial until after election

Judges for the Second Court of Appeals of Milan [official website, in Italian] on Friday rejected a request by the lawyers of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berulsconi [BBC profiles, JURIST news archive] to suspend his appellate proceedings until after Italy's general elections in late February. Berlusconi was found guilty [judgement, PDF, in Italian] and sentenced [JURIST report] in October on charges of tax fraud for irregularities regarding the purchase of broadcasting rights by his private company Mediaset [corporate website, in Italian]. Berlusconi's lawyers proposed a suspension due to the fact that as a known political party chairman, Berlusconi is engaged with the campaign election. Judges stated the request was generic and the appeal process will not affect the campaign [Reuters report] nor present an impediment to his appearing in court. Berlusconi was sentenced to a one-year prison term, banned from political office and ordered to pay 10 million euro in damages. However, his sentence will not take effect [BBC news report] until all of his appeals are exhausted. Two other trials for additional charges are also pending for Berlusconi.

In addition to the tax fraud trial, the former prime minister, who stepped down last November, also faces charges of publicly releasing private wiretaps, embezzlement and paying for sex with an underage prostitute [JURIST reports]. In January 2011 the Italian Constitutional Court held hearings and subsequently struck down [JURIST reports] portions of an immunity law backed by Berlusconi granting public officials temporary amnesty from any charges while in office. Despite numerous trials, Berlusconi has never served prison time due to successful appeals or cases running past the statute of limitations.

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