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Will he now be silenced? High court confirms Berlusconi’s two-year interdiction from public office PDF Print E-mail
Mar 19, 2014 at 10:24 PM

ImageLast August 1, almost NINE whole months ago, Silvio Berlusconi was convicted of tax evasion and fraud and sentenced to four years (reduced to one by a general amnesty regarding certain kinds of crimes) AND to, with what the Italians call a secondary punishment, an interdiction from politics for five years (although this latter was later reduced to two).

Since then, he has been prancing around as if nothing had happened- and most Italians, including journalists, commentators and pundits - have been happily following suit. Now, however, things will have to change. Last night the Corte di Cassazione, the highest Italian court (except for matters concerning the Constitution), confirmed the two-year ban. Furthermore, sometime next month a final decision will be made on whether the former Italian prime minister will serve his sentence in home detention or by performing some sort of socially-useful function. If it is home detention (which I personally, am rooting for), he will not be able to make any public statements or attend any political events unless he receives permission, each time he asks for it, from the Judicial Surveillance Office.

Over the last nine months, therefore, Berlusconi has been able to continue his public role almost as earlier, except for the fact that on the basis of a law barring convicted felons from sitting in Parliament (a law that his lawyers are now challenging in a European court), in November he was expelled from the Italian Senate. Otherwise, a visitor from Mars would have been unable to guess that he had been convicted of a crime. As the leader of Forza Italia, the party he formed in 1994 but which for over a decade had merged with several others, he has been giving speeches and appearing in public, with his doings regularly reported on TV or in the Italian press. Matteo Renzi, Italy's brash new prime minister, helped push this process along in December when, shortly after being elected leader of the Partito Democratico, he angered tens of thousands of supporters by meeting with Berlusconi, the party's long-time enemy, to negotiate an agreement regarding a new electoral law.

A master of propaganda, Berlusconi has succeeded in keeping much of the attention in this country focused on him; last week, even though he surely knew it was a bluff, he announced he would be running for a seat in the European parliament this coming May when those elections are held. Maybe, now, the man will finally be silenced, at least for a while 

 

  

 

To explain why Berlusconi has been allowed to act as a free man since August 1, a bit of background is needed. The real estate and TV magnate was first accused way back in 2003 of fraud and tax evasion deriving from royalties from TV programs sold and resold by his Mediaset TV company. It would take too long to explain why it took nine years to conclude - with a conviction - the first trial (October, 2012). That conviction was upheld both by an Appeals Court in May, 2013 and by the Cassazione on August 1, although the latter did rule that the five-year interdiction called for by the lower courts had been miscalculated and needed to be reworked. The re-evaluation took two and a half more months, until October of last year, when the Appeals court ruled that the interdiction - which also means Berlusconi will lose his right to vote - should be for only two years. Berlusconi had the right to appeal again and only yesterday, eight and a half months after the penal sentence was confirmed, did the Cassazione make its final ruling.

From my point of view, it is horribly depressing to know - as the polls show - that despite the convictions, there are still millions of Italians who would probably vote for Berlusconi tomorrow if he could run for national office; these people either who don't care if Berlusconi is a thief (morals I this country have long been slipping away) or who believe the claptrap that Italy's magistrates are all corrupt or politically-motivated. Some might be, but not all.

I am also sending a separate post (unfortunately in Italian) that show all the judicial charges that have been made against Berlusconi over the last 20 years. (On several occasions, he was acquitted. On many occasions, the slowness of the Italian judicial system meant that the statute of limitations had expired. So either all the magistrates are out to get him or maybe, just maybe, he is either a crook or at the very least a megalomaniac convinced he could get away with anything.

Keep in mind that at present there are still five other cases pending against Berlusconi: in two of these (one for abetting the prostitution of a minor, and another for fraud), the first level trials ended in convictions with sentences of seven and one years respectively. Three others, defamation and corruption, are still in the preliminary stages.

 

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