Silvio Berlusconi’s political allies were reprimanded by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano who told them their demonstration outside Milan’s courthouse yesterday put judicial independence at risk.
“The president of the republic said he was very disappointed in the flare up of tensions and conflicts between politics and justice,” Napolitano’s office said today in an e- mailed statement after the head of state met with lawmakers who attended the protest including Angelino Alfano, general secretary of Berluconi’s People of Liberty party, or PDL. Napolitano will meet the heads of Italy’s judiciary later today.
Berlusconi, 76, was sentenced to a year in prison last week and could face verdicts in two separate criminal trials later this month. Alfano was joined at yesterday’s rally by PDL colleagues, including ex-ministers Maurizio Gasparri and Mariastella Gelmini, and from the courthouse steps told television reporters that Berlusconi’s trials represented an attack against “the republican institutions” of Italy.
Napolitano was “especially disappointed by what happened yesterday, coming to a head with the unprecedented political demonstration within Milan’s Court of Justice,” his office said in the statement. “In calling for a communal and general sense of responsibility so that neither freedom of speech nor the autonomy and independence of the judiciary appear called into question, the head of state called for an immediate change in climate.”
Berlusconi, a billionaire and three-time premier, obtained delays to his trials in Milan after entering the hospital and demonstrating to court-appointed doctors that he was prevented from attending hearings by an eye ailment. Closing arguments are due to be made in the trial that has Berlusconi accused of paying for sex with a minor as well as the appeal to his October conviction for tax fraud. He has denied the charges.
Berlusconi is free pending appeal of the March 6 conviction in a wiretapping case, stemming from the publication of transcripts of bugged phone calls relating to the 2006 battle for control of Banca Nazionale del Lavoro SpA.
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