Rome, December 7 - A Rome detention review court on Thursday rejected a plea by Marcello Dell'Utri, an ailing former aide of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi serving seven years for mafia links, to be released from jail on health grounds - prompting the former Senator to announce a hunger strike. Dell'Utri, 76, said he would refuse all food as well as medical treatment. "Having noted the court decision to let me die in jail I have decided to do it myself by going on a hunger and treatment strike," Dell'Utri said through his lawyers. Niccolò Ghedini, longtime lawyer of Dell'Utri and Berlusconi, said "I have always been convinced that Marcello Dell'Utri is detained after an unjust sentence. "According to article 27 of the Constitution penalties cannot consist in treatment contrary to the sense of humanity and must tend towards the re-education of the condemned man". Dell'Utri, who is suffering heart problems as well as cancer, is being held in Rome's Rebibbia Prison. Filing the plea, Dell'Utri told his lawyers that he is at the end of his tether. "I can't go on, I feel worn-out and tired," Dell'Utri told them a few days ago, the lawyers told the hearing. But Rome Prosecutor-General Pietro Giordano told the court he opposed the ex-Senator's plea, saying that Dell'Utri's condition was compatible with prison detention. Giordano's argument ran counter to that of experts appointed by his office, who had said Dell'Utri should be released from jail. Dell'Utri's lawyers said a rejection of his plea to be released could have "serious psychological repercussions" on their client, who was already "exhausted" by his prison experience. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has asked the Italian government to assess whether keeping Dell'Utri in jail is a violation of his rights not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. The request was made during the conveying to Rome of documents related to an appeal filed in Strasbourg on December 20, 2014, by Dell'Utri. Dell'Utri, a former right-hand man of Berlusconi's, is not entitled to early release because of the gravity of the mafia-related crimes he was convicted of, Italy's highest court ruled in October. External collaboration in mafia association is a crime excluded from those where early release can be granted, the court said. Dell'Utri is serving seven years for colluding with the mafia in Palermo. The 76-year-old former close aide to three-time ex-premier and media mogul Berlusconi and co-founder of Berlusconi's Forza Italia party was convicted in 2014 of acting as an ambassador between the centre-right group and the Cosa Nostra Mafia in his native Sicily. He was extradited from Beirut to serve his sentence. Dell'Utri is also the former head of the media magnate's advertising arm and is credited with creating the media mogul's Forza Italia party in 1993, six months before it swept to victory in general elections. In addressing the Strasbourg court, Dell'Utri said he had been convicted on the basis of a law that came into force after he committed the crimes he was convicted of. He added that the charges against him were vague and imprecise.
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