Berlusconi asks court to postpone Mediaset tax fraud hearing

Ex-premier engaged in multi appearances in election lead up

Berlusconi asks court to postpone Mediaset tax fraud hearing

Milan, February 7 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi has requested a Milan court to postpone a hearing of his appeal trial regarding a one-year sentence for tax fraud on film rights for his Mediaset TV group. Berlusconi's defense team said the center-right leader's election commitments constituted a "legitimate impediment" to his participation in the hearing. In the lead up to February 24-25 elections, Berlusconi is conducting a media blitz and increasing public appearances. The two members of the defense team are also political candidates for the ex-premier's Peole of Freedom party (PdL) and involved in campaigning. Judges did rule in his favor regarding missing a court appearance due to a legitimate impediment in January, when the 76-year-old media tycoon was at a national convention for his PdL party in Rome. It is not his only active trial. Judges in a Milan court on Monday adjourned a hearing of the trial into allegations that Berlusconi had sex with an underage prostitute after the defence team petitioned "legitimate impediment" and postponed the trial until February 11. A trial into accusations Berlusconi was involved in the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap has also been put on hold. In the ongoing and several other previous trials, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly left-wing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons. Berlusconi has been tried some 30 times but has only been convicted three times - verdicts that were either timed out or overturned on appeal - prior to the Mediaset fraud verdict.

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