Domenica, 21 Ottobre 2018
ROME

PdL blocks parliament over Berlusconi trial 'speed'

English
© ANSA

(By Christopher Livesay)
Rome, July 10 - Outraged members of ex-premier
Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party secured a
one-day halt to parliamentary business on Wednesday to discuss
its reaction to a high court decision to start hearings in just
three weeks in a case where the media mogul is appealing a
four-year jail term and a five-year ban from public office.
"Long and detailed discussions (are needed)," said PdL
Lower House Whip Renato Brunetta.
The supreme Cassation Court on Tuesday shocked the
ex-premier's defense team by scheduling the trial date on the
same day the appeal was filed, to begin on July 30.
The PdL had initially asked for three days to mull moves
against "judicial persecution" but later scaled back after the
centre-left Democratic Party (PD), who shares power with the PdL
in the coalition government, rejected the call.
The three-time premier is appealing a four-year term for
inflating film-rights purchases at his Mediaset media empire,
cut to one for an amnesty, as well as a five-year ban from
public office.
As he is over 70 he would not serve the year in prison if
definitively convicted but have to do social work.
However the ban would kick in if, as usually happens,
parliament ratifies it.
There has been some speculation that the PD may not all
vote to ban Berlusconi.
As well as calling for the halt to parliamentary business,
the PdL said it would no longer attend a government summit set
to address thorny issues like the repeal of property tax IMU and
the avoidance of a 1% hike in VAT.
But the PD said the PdL was over-reacting.
Its Senate whip, Luigi Zanda, said "it's OK if a caucus
needs a few hours to talk things through, but longer than that
is not.
"Parliament cannot absolutely suspend its work".
While not blaming the PD for the Cassation Court's action,
the PdL has said this alleged latest instance of judicial
persecution against their leader could bring down the fragile
coalition with their traditional foes.
After the PdL made its demands, Diehard Silvio Berlusconi
loyalist and MP Daniela Santanché said that if the PdL's request
to suspend government meetings was not respected there would be
consequences.
"If the answer is a 'no' then the understanding is that
there is no coalition government," Santanché said in a radio
interview.
"Bringing down a government is not a political action, it
is a consequence of political action," Santanché said.
Many have worried that the fragile stability of the
unprecedented left-right coalition 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.
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.

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