Giovedì, 20 Settembre 2018
ROME

No bias against Berlusconi says court chief

English
© ANSA

(By Christopher Livesay)
Rome, July 10 - The president of the supreme
Cassation Court on Wednesday said that three-time premier Silvio
Berlusconi "was not picked on" in the decision to start appeal
hearings in a fraud case July 30.
"We were not Speedy Gonzales," said Giorgio Santacroce.
Supporters from Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom
(PdL) party were livid after the Cassation's decision Tuesday to
start hearings so soon in a case where the media mogul is
appealing a four-year jail term and a five-year ban from office
for tax-dodging at Mediaset, a broadcasting company that is part
of his family's media empire.
His lawyers have called the move "beyond logic," arguing
that it does not give them enough time to prepare, while the
Cassation insists the case risked timing out under the statute
of limitations - something that has happened in a number of
Berlusconi's previous legal entanglements.
One pro-Berlusconi daily, Il Giornale, called the court
"State bandits," echoing the premier's oft-made allegation of
left-wing judicial bias.
"We are used to language that does not belong in a
democracy," said Santacroce.
"All are free to express their opinions, but within
reason".
Just three weeks ago, Berlusconi's supporters upbraided
judges in a street rally in Rome after a court in Milan found
the 76-year-old guilty of paying for sex with an exotic dancer
named Ruby when she was underage and abusing his office to cover
it up.
He is appealing the seven-year prison sentence and life ban
from office.
After the rally, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who
is also the titular head of the judiciary's self-governing body,
the CSM, called for "greater respect" of all branches of the
State, which was interpreted as an implicit rebuke of Berlusconi
to tone down his rhetoric.
Many have worried that the fragile stability of the
unprecedented left-right coalition government, which makes
strange bedfellows of long-time foes who finished first and
second in February's inconclusive general election, was at risk
over the legal troubles of Berlusconi, who has threatened to
withdraw support over other issues.
Members of his party have vowed to resign from government
en masse if their leader's ban from office is upheld at the
Court of Cassation.
In a sign of the lockstep solidarity the party has long
prided itself on, the PdL secured a one-day halt to
parliamentary business Wednesday to assess the ramifications of
Berlusconi's legal challenges and alleged "judicial
persecution".
But senior party member and Infrastructure Minister
Maurizio Lupi assured that the row will not affect the
government.
"We will continue to do our jobs, and go ahead," Lupi said,
adding that the unexpectedly fast court scheduling "does not
jeopardise" the PdL's coalition with the center left.
But it does threaten "democracy in our country," he
claimed.

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