PdL parliamentarians stage protest at Milan court

Irate at judicial 'persecution' of leader Silvio Berlusconi

PdL parliamentarians stage protest at Milan court

Milan, March 11 - People of Freedom Party (PdL) MPs marched before the Milan courthouse on Monday irate over what they say is continuing "judiciary persecution" of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi. The MPs, including several ex-ministers under the last Berlusconi administration, sang the national anthem, as Alessandra Mussolini - conservative MP and granddaughter of Benito Mussolini - waved an Italian flag. "We have doubts over whether there is still space for being cautious and moderate, because every limit of judicial persecution has been exceeded," said ex-education minister Maria Stella Gelmini. Gelmini added she was protesting to "defend democracy from the attempt to subvert the popular vote". PdL secretary Angelino Alfano had ordered the demonstration while a hearing went on inside for the "Ruby-gate" trial, in which Berlusconi faces charges of paying for sex with an under-aged Moroccan woman and abuse of office. Berlusconi was not present as he is currently hospitalized at Milan's San Raffaele hospital for an eye-infection. Alfano railed against "three very serious facts" regarding judicial demands on Berlusconi and his defense lawyers. First, Berlusconi's defense lawyers, who are also PdL MPs, were not granted "legitimate impediment" from Monday's hearing in order to attend a scheduled meeting with their party colleagues. "We are parliamentarians. We represent the people. This was a meeting of constitutional importance," Alfano said. Second, Alfano was furious that trial judge had sent a team of three doctors to determine whether Berlusconi's eye-infection was serious enough to keep him from court. Alfano found the inspection "scandalous and not worthy of a judiciary functioning in a civil country", while PdL representative for the Puglia region, Francesco Amoroso, complained in a note that Berlusconi "doesn't even have the right to get sick" and called for action against the "persecution". Alfano's third gripe was regarding notice from the Naples court requesting immediate judgment against Berlusconi on corruption charges for allegedly bribing Senator Sergio Di Gregorio over six years ago with three million euros to switch loyalties from centre-left to centre-right, a political move that helped topple Romano Prodi's centre-left majority government in February 2007. Alfano declared his trust in Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to help sort out affairs and threatened to boycott the first sessions of the newly elected parliament if they are not. Photo: PdL secretary Angelino Alfano

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