[JURIST] Italy's National Association of Magistrates [organization website, in Italian] voted Saturday to proclaim [text, in Italian] a "state of agitation," preparing for a possible strike over anticipated judicial budget cuts by the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Judges argued that the proposed cuts would drastically reduce the judiciary's ability to combat lawlessness. The judges also expressed frustration over government efforts to finalize legislation that would suspend ongoing corruption proceedings [JURIST reports] against Berlusconi. AFP has more.
The Italian government also plans to propose a bill that would protect high-ranking government officials from prosecution during their terms in office. Berlusconi, thought to be Italy's richest man, 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, Italy's highest court of appeal upheld Berlusconi's April 2007 acquittal [JURIST reports] of bribery charges. That trial was initially blocked in 2004 by a bill drafted by Berlusconi ally and later defense lawyer Gaetano Pecorella but went ahead after the bill was struck down as unconstitutional. Berlusconi has denied guilt and accused prosecutors of pursuing a political vendetta against him.