Rome

Berlusconi's party vows 'rebellion' after one-year sentence

Bondi says ruling 'ridiculous'

Berlusconi's party vows 'rebellion' after one-year sentence

(see related story) Rome, March 7 - Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party on Thursday said there would be a "rebellion" after the ex-premier was sentenced to a year in jail over the publication of an illegal wiretap. Berlusconi's supporters said the ruling was part of a campaign by some left-wing magistrates, who they say are targeting the 76-year-old media magnate for political motives. "Expect a rebellion against this way of administering justice," said Sandro Bondi, a senior PdL member and former culture minister. "Today's sentence sounds like a ridiculous insult to intelligence and to justice. "At this rate the country will mount an open rebellion - a civil and democratic rebellion, but a full-blown rebellion nonetheless". This week the PdL said it would hold monthly "freedom square" protests to demonstrate against "concentric attacks" by prosecutors against Berlusconi. The move came after it emerged that Berlusconi was being probed in Naples for allegedly paying three million euros to Senator Sergio De Gregorio to switch sides from the centre left to the centre right. De Gregorio, who prosecutors say has admitted to receiving bribes, defected from the centre left during Romano Prodi's 2006-2008 government and eventually joined Berlusconi's party. Berlusconi is on also trial in Milan over accusations he paid for sex with an underage Moroccan dancer, and is accused of abuse of office in the same case. He is appealing against a one-year conviction he was handed last year for tax fraud on film rights for his Mediaset TV group too. In the ongoing and several other previous trials, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of judicial persecution. 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 last year's Mediaset fraud verdict. Piero Longo, one of Berlusconi's attorneys and a PdL lawmaker, said there was no evidence for Thursday's conviction but added he was not surprised by the decision because it was made in Milan, the base for several of the cases against the ex-premier. "I think it's the first time anyone has been sentenced (in Italy) for breach of judicial secrecy," said Longo. "With utmost respect for the judges, I don't think the magistrates have any feelings," he added when asked if the sentence was political.

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