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Europe

Constitutional court reconsiders Berlusconi immunity

Video by Rebecca BOWRING

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-10-07

Italy’s constitutional court begins reviewing Tuesday a law passed in July 2008 that gives Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi immunity from prosecution. If the law is considered unconstitutional, criminal cases involving him could become active.

Italy’s constitutional court begins reviewing Tuesday a law passed in July 2008 that gives Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi immunity from prosecution. If the law is considered unconstitutional, criminal cases involving him could become active.

One of these is the Mills affair, in which he allegedly bribed a British lawyer, David Mills, to give false testimony at two trials in the late 1990s. The perjury was allegedly designed to conceal tax havens he created for Berlusconi in the guise of the prime minister's family holding, Fininvest. Mills was given a four-and-a-half year prison sentence in February for his role in the affair.

Berlusconi was not tried, as the immunity law made this impossible. The law was passed just six weeks after his third term in office.

Berlusconi’s luck has already taken a turn for the worse. Milan’s civil court ruled Saturday that Fininvest had to pay 750 million euros in compensation to the Compagnie Industriali Riunite. According to the ruling, a judge had been bribed to allow Fininvest to wrest Mondadori publishing house from CIR in 1991.

"I am literally flabbergasted," said the premier and billionaire media mogul in a statement after the compensation ruling. "It's a sentence that goes beyond good or bad, it's surely a legal absurdity."
 
Protection from 'distractions'

The law protects the prime minister and three other top political positions in Italy.

The prime minister says he has been hounded by magistrates since entering politics 15 years ago, and that the law allows him to govern without being "distracted" by the judiciary.

The law is being contested in the constitutional court, on the basis that the measure violates several principles enshrined in the constitution &emdash; including that all citizens are equal before the law.

The constitutional court is made up of 15 judges. The court's verdict is adopted by a simple majority and is final.

Date created : 2009-10-06

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