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Italy high court upholds Berlusconi's ban from public office

Italy's Court of Cassation [official website, in Italian] on Tuesday confirmed a two-year ban from public office for the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for his conviction for tax fraud. Prior to the high court's confirmation, Berlusconi had hoped to run for European Parliament in May. Berlusconi had fought to overturn the ban handed down by a Milan appeals court last October. Berlusconi was also sentenced to four years in prison, later commuted to one year, after being found guilty [JURIST report] last August of tax evasion by his holding company Fininvest [corporate website]. Berlusconi plans to further appeal the tax fraud verdict to Italy's constitutional court.

Last November the Italian Senate voted to expel [JURIST report] Berlusconi from parliament following his conviction for tax fraud, which stripped the former primer of his immunity allowing him to face prosecution for other crimes. Berlusconi has since appealed his expulsion [Spiegel report] to the European Court of Human Rights. In October a senate panel voted in favor [JURIST report] of expelling Berlusconi from his seat in parliament. Also in October, an Italian court prohibited Berlusconi from running for office for two years [JURIST report] due to his tax fraud conviction. In addition to the fraud charges, Berlusconi, who stepped down as prime minister last November, has faced a number of criminal charges including publicly releasing private wiretaps, embezzlement and paying for sex with an underage prostitute [JURIST reports]. The former prime minister has been able to avoid serving any prison time by successfully appealing or allowing the statute of limitations on the charge to expire. In January 2011 the Italian Constitutional Court held hearings before striking down [JURIST reports] a bill backed by Berlusconi that would give Italian public officials amnesty from any charges while holding office.

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