Rimini, August 23 - Italy's defence minister suggested including convicted ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi in a proposed prison amnesty to alleviate overcrowding. "For him and the thousands of inmates overcrowding Italy's prisons," said Mario Mauro, a moderate in the left-right coalition government, formerly of Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party. "The Italian prison system is inadequate and it's bursting. I'm not the one to say it - it's the magistrates who do every year". The media have reported that jurists are trying to find some way of applying an amnesty to Berlusconi, who received his first-ever binding conviction earlier this month for tax fraud. In addition to a six-year ban from office, the conviction came with a four-year prison term, commuted to one due to an earlier amnesty. Because of his age, the 76-year-old three-time premier has the option of serving house arrest or community service, though he has suggested he would rather serve the time in jail, something he must decide next month. On Thursday Italian President Napolitano met Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri, sparking speculation he might be looking at ways to provide Berlusconi with a judicial life-belt. Napolitano's office said he and the minister had reviewed measures to stem prison overcrowding and other pending justice bills.
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di Giovanni Pastore