Berlusconi gets 20 days to prepare defence of Senator status

Upper House committee to reconvene September 9

Berlusconi gets 20 days to prepare defence of Senator status

Rome, August 8 - A Senate commission has given ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi 20 days to prepare a defence dossier to keep his seat in the Upper House after the supreme court upheld a tax-fraud conviction against him last week. The commission is set to reconvene September 9 to discuss turfing the 76-year-old billionaire out of parliament after a meeting late on Wednesday. Berlusconi risks being stripped of his Senate seat even though a five-year ban on holding public office that came with the conviction has been sent back to the Milan appeals court for review. Wednesday's meeting was convened to discuss whether Berlusconi is ineligible because of a 1957 law that bans people holding public licences, like the ones the ex-premier has for his TV channels, from being lawmakers. But he could also be removed from parliament after the fraud conviction because of a 2012 anti-corruption law, which would probably make him ineligible to run in future elections too. Some of his supporters have said the legislation should not apply to the three-time premier as the original sentence pre-dates the legislation. Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party wants ways to be found to make it possible for the ex-premier to continue to be active in politics, something he has vowed to do. He says last week's decision to uphold a four-year jail term, three years of which have been commuted because of an amnesty, was the result of a campaign of persecution by left-wing elements in the judiciary that started when he entered politics two decades ago. After over two dozen criminal cases, last week's verdict was the first time Berlusconi has suffered a definitive conviction. A request by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) for the urgent examination of a bill on the parliamentary eligibility of convicts was rejected in a vote in the Senate Thursday.

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