Berlusconi defense lawyer 'shocked' by speedy appeals trial

Says July 30 date for supreme court trial compromises defense

Berlusconi defense lawyer 'shocked' by speedy appeals trial

Rome, July 9 - A defense lawyer for Italian ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday expressed outrage at the speed of judicial proceedings in the final, supreme court appeal of the media mogul's conviction for tax fraud. The supreme Court of Cassation set July 30 as the starting date for the final appeals trial regarding Berlusconi's conviction on tax-dodging through the manipulation of film rights for Mediaset, a broadcasting company that is part of his family's media empire. ''I have never seen a hearing scheduled with this speed. I am shocked, surprised and saddened, because in this way defence rights are compromised,'' said Berlusconi's lawyer, Franco Coppi, commenting on the Cassation court trial scheduling. Last month the Constitutional court - Italy's middle court - upheld a lower court ruling sentencing Berlusconi to four years in prison and banning him from public office for five years. The sentence will not be enforced unless upheld by the Supreme Court of Cassation. There are fears that if the Cassation court upholds Berlusconi's sentence, members of the center-right leader's People of Freedom (PdL) party could act out to upset the fragile left-right coalition government, headed by Premier Enrico Letta of the center-left Democratic Party (PD). Senior PdL officials have said the party's lawmakers will quit en masse if the fraud conviction is upheld by the supreme Court of Cassation.

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