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Italy's ex-premier Berlusconi gets two-year political ban

Milan court set ex-premier's ban in tax fraud conviction, but expulsion from Senate depends on separate vote next month.

Italy's ex-premier Berlusconi gets two-year political ban
Last Update: 21 October 2013, 15:07

A Milan appeals court on Saturday set Italian ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s political ban in his tax fraud conviction at two years, reported by Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty on its website. But since Berlusconi is a senator, the court’s decision will have no immediate impact – his expulsion from the Senate will hinge on a separate vote in the upper house of parliament, expected to occur next month.

The Senate is dominated by Berlusconi opponents from both the left and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, and is expected to vote to strip the center-right politician of his seat. Berlusconi has been fighting various legal cases, including a conviction for paying for sex with a minor.

The appeals court had been ordered by Italy’s highest court to determine the length of the political ban accompanying Berlusconi’s tax fraud conviction and four-year jail term, after prosecutors conceded errors in the original five-year ban.

Berlusconi’s lawyers, who can appeal to the country’s supreme court, had asked for a one-year ban, the minimum under the law that was being applied in the Milan case. The maximum would have been three years.

Italy’s supreme court definitively upheld a tax fraud conviction on August 1 against Berlusconi, rejecting his final appeal against an earlier four-year jail sentence.

The four-year sentence was commuted to one year, and, if the Senate expels him, Berlusconi will spend the year either under house arrest or in community service.

In the August 1 ruling, the supreme court confirmed the conviction, however ordered a further judicial review of a ban on holding public office imposed for the same offense.

The upper house's vote next month will effectively supersede the Milan court's decision because it will be based on a separate law – which, if Berlusconi is expelled, would ban him from public office for six years. A special Senate committee opened the way earlier this month for a motion to expel Berlusconi.

The decision over Berlusconi's future has been one of the most sensitive issues facing parliament.

Center-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta's awkward coalition with Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (PDL) came close to falling when Berlusconi pulled his ministers out of the government last month.

The stated reason for the break was a disagreement over tax policy, yet the weeks of tension over his impending expulsion helped poison the climate in the broad left-right coalition.

The August supreme court ruling involved inflated invoices at his Mediaset broadcasting empire, and was the first definitive sentence he had received after dozens of previous trials on charges ranging from tax to sex offenses.

The 76-year-old billionaire has protested his innocence, accusing magistrates of persecuting him since his entry into politics 20 years ago.






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