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Milan Court Convicts Berlusconi (again) PDF Print E-mail
Jun 24, 2013 at 10:53 PM

Image A Milan court today convicted former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on charges of prostitution with a minor and for abuse of office for successfully seeking to suborn the decision of a magistrate regarding the minor, sentencing him to seven years in jail and a permanent interdiction to public office.

Lawyers for Mr. Berlusconi, who was not in court and who decried the ruling as an act of political persecution, said they would appeal the decision. The conviction and the sentence will become final only at the final stage of Italy's three-level court system which goes from the regular criminal court, to the Appeals court, and - should one or both of the parties request it - on to the Court of Cassation, the Italian supreme court. In the meantime, the Milan tribunal of three judges, all women by the way, has announced it will be seeking perjury charges against a significant number of people who testified in Mr. Berlusconi's favor, this group reportedly including a number of young women who attended the parties in question and may have been offered financial inducement to alter their testimony.

The big question of most people's minds this afternoon was, therefore, what - if any - effect the case's outcome might have on the stability of the three-month old Italian government, composed of cabinet ministers from both the center-left Partito Democratico (PD) and the center-right Popolo della Libertà. Mr. Berlusconi's party PdL). However, should the latter, which insists most of Milan's judges are politically-biased left-wingers, withdraw its support from the government at a time when urgent economic measures to deal with the country's ongoing recession are under consideration, it would leave itself open to charges that it is putting the interests of its leaders ahead of that of the country as a whole. And furthermore, it would change nothing. Several weeks ago, Mr Berlusconi was also convicted (and sentenced to four years reclusion) by another Milan court on corruption charges and the government did not collapse at that time.

Although Mr. Berlusconi insisted this afternoon that he had expected to be acquitted, the conviction had been widely anticipated by most people here. Although there appears to be some doubt that the Italian political leader actually had sexual relations with Karima El Mahroug (known as Ruby), a Moroccan exotic dancer who was 17 at the time she participated in a series of parties at Berlusconi's mansion, there appears to be little doubt that when she was arrested for theft in May 2010, the then premier telephoned a minor child tribunal magistrate who had decided to entrust her to the custody of an approved lodging for minor children and pressured her into releasing her into the custody of a regional parliamentarian who also is believed to have had sexual relations with Mr. Berlusconi and who is currently under investigation for encouraging prostitution. At the time, Mr. Berlusconi reportedly told the magistrate that the young woman was a relative of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarek. He claims that he truly believed that; others insist he knew full well that was not the case.

It is hard to know exactly where the truth lies but there is little doubt that Mr. Berlusconi's careless and cavalier management of his private life repeatedly has jeopardized his political reputation and besmirched his country's standing.

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