Magistrates appeal to minister over Berlusconi attacks

Ex-premier accuses judges of persecution

Magistrates appeal to minister over Berlusconi attacks

Rome, May 15 - The magistrate members of the Italian judiciary's self-governing body on Wednesday appealed to Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri to defend judges from attacks from ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi had intensified his claims that he is the victim of persecution from left-wing magistrates after his legal problems grew more serious this month. At the weekend Berlusconi spoke at a protest rally in Brescia against alleged judicial persecution that was attended by some members from his People of Freedom (PdL) who are also ministers in Premier Enrico Letta's left-right government. These included Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano. "The justice minister should make her support for the whole judiciary heard without any uncertainty," read a statement by the members of Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM) belonging to magistrates association Unicost. The CSM also features members nominated by political parties. "It is indispensable that there is maximum respect between all the institutions," added the statement. Berlusconi and the PdL's renewed attacks on some parts of the judiciary come after a series of legal setbacks for the three-time premier. The 76-year-old failed on a bid to have a four-year conviction for fraud at his media empire overturned by an appeals court last week. On Monday prosecutors requested he receive a six-year prison sentence for allegedly paying for sex with an underage prostitute and allegedly abusing his power to try to cover up the affair. On Tuesday Rome prosecutors questioned Berlusconi over suspicions he paid 750,000 euros to buy the silence of people regarding his alleged use of prostitutes. In this he is believed to be the victim of extortion by three former associates also he is probed in a related investigation in Bari of suspicion of bribing people to lie about his alleged sex parties. In March Berlusconi was handed a one-year prison sentence for the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap of a telephone conversation of a political rival in his brother's newspaper. Last week Naples prosecutors requested the ex-premier be sent to trial over allegations he bribed former Senator Sergio De Gregorio to change political sides during Romano Prodi's 2006-2008 centre-left government. Berlusconi denies any wrongdoing in all cases.

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