Silvio Berlusconi to stay on if convicted
Silvio Berlusconi will refuse to resign as prime minister of Italy even if he is convicted in two corruption trials due to begin later this month.
By Nick Squires in Rome
Mr Berlusconi, 73, who is battling a series of sex scandals and legal entanglements as well as a dose of scarlet fever, said a conviction would only strengthen his resolve to lead.
Italian law allows for two exhaustive levels of appeal, during which time the defendant remains at liberty. The appeals could take years and might extend the cases until they “time out” under Italy’s complicated statute of limitations system.
The first trial, which involves tax fraud and false accounting allegations involving his television empire Mediaset is due to start on November 16.
The second, in which he is accused of paying £370,000 bribe to his British tax accountant David Mills, the estranged husband of Cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, will resume shortly afterwards, on Nov 27. The prime minister denies all the charges.
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“I still have confidence in the existence of serious magistrates who issue serious sentences, based on facts,” he said. “If there is a conviction at trial, we would be confronted with such a subversion of the truth that I would all the more feel the duty to resist (and stay) at my post to defend democracy and rule of law.”
Angelo Bonelli, an opposition MP, said the prime minister’s declaration sent “an unedifying message to the country”.
Both trials were frozen last year when Mr Berlusconi passed a law giving himself immunity from prosecution while in office.
His opponents said it was a brazen attempt to twist the law to serve his own ends. It was ruled unconstitutional by Italy’s highest court last month, a decision which prompted the prime minister to lash out at “communist” judges and magistrates who he claims are bent on destroying him.
The association of Italian magistrates denounced the attack as “groundless and ridiculous” and said it was considering calling a strike.