Ex-Italy PM Silvio Berlusconi criminal appeal to finish

Friday, July 19, 2013 Silvio Berlusconi attends a voting session at the Senate in Rome. Silvio Berlusconi is a Senator in addition to his role as a coalition partner leader

Lawyers for former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are asking the country's top criminal court to overturn his conviction for tax fraud.

Judges at Rome's Court of Cassation are set to decide whether to uphold a one-year jail sentence and political ban.

Prosecutors pressed the panel on Tuesday to cut a ban on public office from five to three years.

The three-time premier and senator faces house arrest or community service rather than prison because he is 76.

The verdict is not expected until Thursday, Italian media report.

The five judges could arrive at their decision by the end of the day, but it's also possible that the case will go on into Thursday.

Mr Berlusconi's party is one of the pillars of the ruling coalition administration.

And if he is found guilty the political tensions in the aftermath of the judgement would be so acute that they might even threaten the stability of the government.

Public prosecutor Antonello Mura has asked the five judges to confirm a prison sentence in the case.

He argued that the decision by a lower appeal court in May to uphold his conviction was sound.

When Mr Berlusconi was convicted in October of last year, he was sentenced to four years in prison but this was automatically reduced to one under a 2006 pardon law.

His Mediaset media empire raised the price of film distribution rights artificially high, to avoid incurring a higher tax bill, the original ruling said. Mr Berlusconi was labelled the "author of a whole system of tax fraud".

On Monday Mr Mura surprised many observers by asking the judges to reduce his ban from public office, pointing to a legal technicality.

One of Berlusconi's lawyers, Franco Coppi, said Mr Mura was trying to fix an "error" by the lower court. He said the prosecutor was "trying to defend an indefensible verdict.''

Silvio Berlusconi's trials

  • Convicted in June 2013 of paying for sex with underage prostitute and abusing his power. Sentenced to seven years in jail and banned from ever again holding public office. Free pending outcome of appeals process
  • Convicted in October 2012 of tax fraud over deals his firm Mediaset made to purchase TV rights to US films. Sentenced to four years in prison, reduced to one, then reinstated as four by appeals court in May 2013. Also banned from holding public office for five years. Free pending outcome of final appeal, expected July 2013
  • Convicted in March 2013 of arranging leak of police wiretap. Sentenced to year in prison. Free pending appeals
  • Two other corruption cases involving tax evasion and bribery of a British lawyer expired under statute of limitations
Protest threat

As Mr Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party is in Italy's governing coalition, the country faces political uncertainty if his conviction is upheld and he is excluded from participating in political duties.

Many PDL supporters have vowed to hold public protests if the judges do not rule in his favour. Some hardliners even promised to block Italian motorways, the Italian news agency Ansa reports.

A 2010 Italian constitutional court ruling on a statute of limitations opened the way for a string of trials involving Mr Berlusconi.

Appeals are pending in other cases in which he was convicted of having paid for sex with an underage prostitute and arranging for a police wiretap to be leaked and published in a newspaper.

One of Italy's richest men, who built a media empire from his base in Milan, he accuses magistrates from his home city of pursuing a "vendetta" against him.

More on This Story

Berlusconi's era

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