Monday, March 28, 2011

Italy PM Berlusconi in first trial showing since 2003

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi arriving at the Milan tribunal (28 March 2011) Mr Berlusconi told an Italian TV channel on Monday that none of the allegations against him was true
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is appearing at a court in Milan where he faces charges of corruption.
He waved to reporters, shortly after telling Italian TV the case against him was "ridiculous".
Mr Berlusconi, a defendant in a total of four trials, has not attended a trial for more than seven years.
He says he will appear at as many hearings as possible in order to prove his innocence.
Monday's trial, taking place behind closed doors, concerns one of Mr Berlusconi's media companies.
The Italian prime minister denies claims he inflated the price paid to buy television rights, and then skimmed off the difference to fund political and other activities.
His son and a number of others are accused alongside him.
"None of the facts on which the Milan prosecutors have built their case is true," Mr Berlusconi told the Canale 5 TV channel on Monday.
The 74-year-old prime minister has been a defendant in about 50 trials in his career, but has exercised his right to stay away, accusing the judiciary of being politically biased against him.
But now he says he will turn up at as many hearings as his job permits in order to prove his innocence.
Sex and corruption Dozens of supporters stood outside the tribunal, holding placards and waving flags. Although Mr Berlusconi was unlikely to make any statement during the hearing, he said earlier that the legal process against him was an attempt by the Left to "eliminate the key obstacle" to their seizure of power.
Another reason why he is due to appear in court is that Mr Berlusconi had his immunity from prosecution watered down in January.
As well as this court case, he also faces two other corruption trials and a fourth where he is accused of paying an underage prostitute.
In that trial, Mr Berlusconi faces up to 15 years in jail.
In each case Mr Berlusconi says he is innocent.
But although the cumulative effect of these sex and corruption scandals have taken their toll on his popularity, there is no immediate threat to his position as prime minister.
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