Lunedì, 24 Settembre 2018
ROME

Berlusconi 'set to request pardon'

English
© ANSA

(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, August 14 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi looks
set to request a presidential pardon for his first definitive
criminal conviction as the issue continues to roil relations in
Italy's unprecedented left-right coalition government.
The premier's lead lawyer said he was "sure" the
centre-right leader will ask President Giorgio Napolitano for a
pardon on the four-year tax-fraud conviction - cut to one
because of an amnesty - that would also strip him of his Senate
seat.
"The pardon will be requested, sooner or later," said Piero
Longo.
Longo tried to back-track later, claiming he had not said a
pardon requested.
But he did admit that it was one of the "likeliest"
scenarios as Berlusconi's immediate priority in his long battle
against what he claims are leftist magistrates out to drive him
from the political field he victoriously entered in 1994.
But even if a pardon is granted, Berlusconi could still
lose his seat in the upper house of parliament.
A presidential pardon will not affect next month's vote on
stripping the ex-premier of his Senate seat, the head of the
Senate immunity panel said Wednesday.
A pardon would cover the remaining one-year term for the
crime but not the accompanying six-year ban from office, Dario
Stéfano of the leftwing SEL party said.
Napolitano has said justice must be served but he would
weigh the possibility of a pardon while respecting the
independence of the judiciary.
The president also stressed Tuesday that Berlusconi would
not go to jail but serve the sentence under house arrest or
doing community service.
He warned of the "dramatic" effect on the ailing Italian
economy - struggling with its longest recession in over 20
years - if centre-left Premier Enrico Letta's government falls
because of the Berlusconi conviction.
Berlusconi backers took the president's statement to mean a
pardon was likely but their uneasy coalition partners, Letta's
Democratic Party, thought the opposite, that he was saying the
three-time premier must respect his first definitive conviction
in more than 20 cases including alleged corruption, judge and
witness buying and sex with an underage prostitute.
With or without a pardon, media magnate Berlusconi is set
to revamp his People of Freedom (PdL) party under its original
banner, Forza Italia.
His daughter and business heir Marina on Tuesday ruled out
taking up her father's political mantle in the face of
persistent speculation to the contrary.
Meanwhile the PdL and PD continued to parse Napolitano's
Tuesday statement for ingredients to back their opposing
arguments.
Napolitano's statement that he would consider if it was
possible to pardon Berlusconi met with very conflicting
interpretations.
The two strange bedfellows making up Italy's fragile
coalition government, long-time foes PD and PdL, highlighted
different passages of the president's statement.
PD lawmakers noted the president had stressed that all
convictions must be implemented while the ex-premier's allies
welcomed Napolitano's opening to the possibility of a pardon.
"It looks to me like President Napolitano repeated a
concept that should have been obvious for weeks - that Italy is
a state of law and convictions upheld on appeal must be
respected and implemented", said the PD's Deputy Economy
Minister Stefano Fassina in an interview published Wednesday by
Turin daily La Stampa.
PD Senate whip Luigi Zanda also noted that Napolitano had
stressed that any decision would have to respect the division of
powers.
"The statement cites the limits and characteristics of
powers attributed to the head of state", said Zanda.
Pdl lawmakers on the other hand welcomed Napolitano's
opening after demanding over the past week that Berlusconi be
pardoned on the grounds that he has long been the victim of
malicious prosecution and threatening to bring down Italy's
unprecedented left-right coalition government over the issue.
Napolitano's statement, said leading PdL member Stefania
Prestigiacomo, "has been a first acknowledgement that the
situation is difficult and a solution must be found.
"There are almost 10 million Italians who would otherwise
be robbed of their political representation.
"The issue of Berlusconi's political presence is real.
Napolitano's opening is very important".
Anti-establishment leader Beppe Grillo, who came a c lose
third to the PD and PdL-led coalitions in February's
inconclusive general election said Napolitano ought to quit
after countenancing the possibility of a pardon and allegedly
breaching the Constitution which decrees equality before the
law.
"If Berlusconi is saved, the institutions will die," 5-Star
Movement (M5S) leader Grillo, echoing an M5S member's call for
the president's impeachment for subverting the Constitution if
the tax-fraud sentence for inflating film rights is commuted and
he escapes ejection from the Senate.
"Napolitano will leave the scene in the worst way. My advice
is that he should resign now," Grillo said.
Napolitano said Tuesday he was weighing if it was possible
to pardon Berlusconi while stressing that all convictions must
be implemented.
He also noted that he had not received a pardon request and
that any decision he would make in such an event would have to
respect the division of state powers.
Napolitano pointed out that Berlusconi, 76, would be
eligible to serve his one-year sentence at one of his many
residences or doing some form of community service.
The Senate is scheduled to vote next month on ejecting the
PdL leader whether or not his ban is upheld.
The president once more warned against ending Italy's
two-month-old emergency reform government, which he helped forge
to end two months of political deadlock following February's
inconclusive general election amid the country's longest
recession in over twenty years.
Berlusconi's lawyer Franco Coppi told Corriere della Sera on
Wednesday that with his statement the president had indicated
that "the issue does not only concern the citizen Silvio
Berlusconi but rather the country's equilibrium".
He said no decision had yet been made on a pardon request
and that "in the end, it will be Berlusconi who will have to
choose".
"It is certainly a possibility that is being considered",
said the attorney.
Coppi went on to voice his belief that a pardon request
would be forthcoming, "sooner or later".

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