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Italy's top court discusses granting immunity to PM

Updated: 2011-01-13 06:45


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ROME - Italy's top court on Wednesday started discussing the legality of a law granting the prime minister the right to be absent from trials.

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Nine out of 15 of the country's supreme judges are against such a law because they consider it "illegal," and are ready to vote against it during the extraordinary assembly scheduled for Thursday, according to Ansa news agency.

Following the hearing of Berlusconi's lawyers on Monday, the judges have apparently not been sufficiently convinced of the decree's compliance to Italy's constitution, said the report.

If the high court repeals the law, it would be the third time it does so after it rejected another two immunity laws in 2004 and 2009, saying they were against the Constitutional principle that everyone is equal before the law.

The law under examination acknowledges the so-called "legal impediment" that allows the prime minister to be absent from court for reasons linked to his institutional role and thus freezes his pending trials.

Berlusconi is currently probed in different trials. He is accused of paying his former British tax adviser David Mills to give misleading evidence in two corruption trials in the 1990s. The prime minister is also accused of tax fraud in relation to TV rights purchased by his broadcaster Mediaset.

Berlusconi on Wednesday expressed confidence and said that no matter what the judges' final decision is his government will never fall, adding he was ready to explain to Italian citizens his troubles with the law.

"I consider as ridiculous all trials in which I'm involved because they focus on unreal facts and Italians must know this because these trials prove that the judiciary's power has gone over its boundaries. I have never demanded the legal impediment law, it was the parliament's decision to approve it," he added.

The constitutional court is the highest ranking court in the country and decides, among other things, on the legality of all laws approved, whether they respect the constitution or not.


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