[JURIST] An Italian appeals court on Friday acquitted former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] in a prostitution case, reversing a lower court conviction [JURIST report] for paying a 17-year-old dancer for sex while he was in office and for abusing his power by asking police to release her. As a result of his former conviction, Berlusconi was banned from holding public office [JURIST report] for two years, which was reversed [AP report] upon his acquittal, and he was expelled [JURIST report] from the senate. The court found that no crimes had been committed and will issue its judgment within 90 days. Both Berlusconi and dancer Karima El-Mahroug deny ever having sex. However, the case may still be appealed to Italy’s highest criminal court, the Court of Cassation [official website, in Italian].
Berlusconi has been at the center of several political scandals, though he has only begun to serve time [JURIST report] in the form of community service for his tax fraud conviction. Having been a defendant [JURIST report] in nearly 50 cases, Berlusconi has avoided prison through successful appeals and expired statute of limitations. He has, however suffered much political fallout as a result of his criminal charges. In October Berlusconi was ordered [JURIST report] to stand trial for allegedly bribing a senator to switch political parties. In March 2013 Berlusconi was convicted [JURIST report] of breaking secrecy rules by publishing the transcript of a taped phone conversation between him and a political rival.