Politics


Italy: Berlusconi immunity law deemed 'unconstitutional'




Rome, 7 October (AKI) - On Wednesday, Italy's top court, the Constitutional Court decided that a law granting immunity to scandal-prone Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi violated the constitution and is thus illegal.

Early reports said nine of the 15 judges voted in favour of overturning the Lodo Alfano law - approved in June last year- which gives immunity from criminal prosecution to the four highest offices of state, including the prime minister.

In September, the state attorney said if the law was deemed unconstitutional, Berlusconi could be unable to govern.

"It could damage to electoral functions that would not be able to be carried out with due commitment, it could also cause resignations and, in any case, it would cause irreparable damage," the state attorney said.

The 15-judge court began hearing arguments on Tuesday before its deliberation on Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, the court appeared divided over the law - seven judges were said to be in favour of overturning it, while five were in favour of its constitutionality and the remaining three were undecided.

The court said the law is in clear violation of Article 138 of Italy's Constitutional Law.

However, before the court gave its verdict, a key ally of Berlusconi's coalition government, Umberto Bossi of the anti-immigrant Northern League Party, said if the law was overturned, his party would "mobilise the people", stirring up further controversy.

"If the court throws out the law we could go into action, mobilising the people," said Bossi on Wednesday, causing many Italian politicians to condemn his statement.

Until the law was introduced, Berlusconi was a defendant in the case involving British tax lawyer, David Mills, who was sentenced in February to four and a half years in jail for accepting a 600,000 dollar bribe from the prime minister for giving false evidence in corruption trials.

Italy's 73-year old leader also proposed further legislation stating that if immunity were ever lifted, the conviction of Mills and the evidence on which it is based could not be used against him.

The premier's lawyer, Nicolo Ghedini also said on Tuesday that "although the law is equal for all, its application is another matter," referring to the Lodo Alfano law.

The ruling comes two days after Berlusconi was declared to be jointly responsible for a corruption conviction against his holding company Fininvest in a 1991 battle to buy publisher Mondadori and will have to pay more than 1.1 billion dollars in compensation.




 

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