Berlusconi's party targets 'politicised' prosecutors

'Biased prosecutors' would have trials suspended, transferred

Berlusconi's party targets 'politicised' prosecutors

(By Christopher Livesay) Rome, May 28 - A member of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party on Tuesday sparked an uproar Tuesday when he presented a bill in the Senate that would punish prosecutors found guilty of being moved by political motives, suspend the trials they are working on and have them transferred. The measure, presented to the Senate Justice Commission by the committee's president, former justice minister Francesco Nitto Palma, has been nicknamed the "Save Berlusconi" bill. Berlusconi in on trial in Milan for allegedly paying for sex with an underage prostitute and for allegedly abusing his office to try to hush up the affair. He is also appealing against a four-year conviction for fraud at his media empire and a one-year sentence for involvement in the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap. He faces indictment for allegedly buying a Senator to help topple a centre-left government too. In his current and 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 recently failed in a bid to have the sex trial and his first appeal against the fraud conviction moved from Milan to Brescia because of alleged bias by magistrates. The supreme Court of Cassation said it turned down the petition because it considered the accusations of bias "defamatory". Among the first to speak out against the bill Tuesday was Sandro Bondi, a former culture minister under Berlusconi. "There's something that doesn't sit right with me," said Bondi. "This isn't the high road for reforming the justice system. If anything, it's the easiest road for creating further problems for Berlusconi". The author of the bill soon chided opponents who said it aimed to serve the three-time premier in his ongoing legal battles. "In my bill there is no reference to criminal cases which are currently pending. It is untrue (to suggest) this would block trials," said Nitto Palma. According to the bill, prosecutors under investigation for political motives in court proceedings would have the trial in question suspended for six months while a new prosecutor is appointed. If the bill becomes law, it states that it would apply "to all pending proceedings" as well as future cases. Former "Clean Hands" magistrate Antonio Di Pietro said it was time to "quit making private use of (public) institutions". "The (bill) is the latest self-serving measure. It's an insult to justice". Donatella Ferranti, of the Democratic Party (PD) and head of the House Justice Commission, said the measure was provocative. "A provocation per week is the way to destabilize the government," Ferranti said, referring to last week when a Senator allied with the PdL briefly tabled a bill that would drastically reduce the penalties for mafia collusion. Critics were quick to link the proposal to Marcello Dell'Utri, a former close aide of Berlusconi's and a former PdL Senator, who is appealing to the supreme Court of Cassation against a seven-year conviction for the crime in question. Amid an immediate outcry, the bill was withdrawn on the same day.

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