Italian ex-PM Berlusconi renounces knight title

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Silvio Berlusconi (19 February 2014)Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The knighthood earned Silvio Berlusconi his famous nickname, Il Cavaliere

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has resigned his knighthood, a day after an appeals court upheld his two-year ban from public office.

Berlusconi was granted the title Knight of Labour - an order of merit given to entrepreneurs - in the 1970s.

The honorific earned him the famous nickname, Il Cavaliere, or The Knight.

But some members of the order had been calling for Berlusconi's expulsion after he was found guilty of tax fraud last year.

Following the verdict, he was also stripped of his senate seat and sentenced to four years' imprisonment.

The jail term is likely to be commuted to one year's community service.

'Exemplary behaviour'

Berlusconi announced his decision in a letter sent to the Federation of Knights of Labour before a planned board meeting.

The order's rules stipulate that members must exhibit "exemplary civil and social behaviour", the AFP news agency reports.

Tuesday's ruling by the highest appeals court on the public office ban means Berlusconi will be unable to stand in elections for the European Parliament in May.

His lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, said he was "extremely disappointed" by the verdict of the Court of Cassation.

Berlusconi, 77, has faced a string of court cases but the sentence for tax fraud, upheld last August, was the first definitive conviction.

He was convicted over deals his firm Mediaset made to purchase TV rights to US films.

The subsequent two-year ban on holding public office was imposed by a Milan court in October.

Last June Berlusconi was also convicted of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his power.

He was sentenced to seven years in jail and banned from ever holding public office. However, he is free pending the outcome of the appeals process.

In the latest case against him, Berlusconi went on trial in Naples last month for allegedly bribing a senator to join his party in 2006.

He denies any wrongdoing.

Correspondents say that, despite his court convictions and continuing legal battles, Berlusconi still remains an influential force in Italian politics.