Rome

Constitutional Court turns down Berlusconi petition

Ex-premier asked four-year conviction to be quashed

Constitutional Court turns down Berlusconi petition

(see previous) Rome, June 19 - Italy's Constitutional Court on Monday rejected ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's petition for a four-year tax-fraud conviction to be struck down. The case concerns a four-year conviction Berlusconi was handed last year for tax fraud on TV rights bought by his Mediaset media empire. The conviction, which also includes a five-year ban from public office, was upheld by an appeals court last month. "This 20-year attempt to eliminate me from political life, which has never succeeded because through the democratic system I have always been legitimized by a popular vote, will in no way undermine or weaken my political commitment to a more just and free Italy," Berlusconi said following the court's decision. Berlusconi's lawyers sought to have the conviction struck down on the grounds that, since the media mogul was premier at the time of a 2010 hearing, that hearing should never have taken place because he had a "legitimate impediment" that prevented him attending. If the Constitutional Court upheld Berlusconi's petition the case would have timed out. But with the rejection, Berlusconi will be forced to take the case to the supreme Court of Cassation. With the Cassation's decision to uphold the conviction, it becomes effective. Berlusconi is unlikely to actually have to spend time as a 2006 amnesty law means three of the four years of the sentence will not be effective, leaving just one, and terms that are so short are usually suspended in Italy. But the ban of holding public office will technically kick in. Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party said earlier Wednesday that all of their lawmakers would resign if this happened. This would cause a crisis for Premier Enrico Letta's left-right coalition government, which relies on the PdL's support in parliament. "This is an unbelievable decision. We are shocked, saddened and deeply concerned," PdL misters said in a release. "The decision overturns every principle of cooperation and establishes the policy of a subordinate judiciary," the release said.

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