Berlusconi bloodied in attack by protestor

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi was recovering from a broken nose and teeth after being hit in the face by a statue thrown by a protester at a rally.

The controversial 73-year-old was stunned and bloodied after the incident in Milan. A 42-year-old man was arrested.

TV footage showed the prime minister being lifted to his feet by helpers after the attack.

Paolo Klun, chief spokesman for Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital said Mr Berlusconi suffered a “small fracture” of the nose, two broken teeth, and injury to the inside and outside of his lip.

The attack happened as Mr Berlusconi was signing autographs yesterday.

He was hustled into the back of a car, but immediately got out, apparently in an effort to show he was not badly injured.

After looking out into the crowd, the premier, without saying a word, was pulled back into the vehicle.

Mr Berlusconi had just finished delivering a long, vigorous speech to a crowd of applauding supporters from his Freedom People party.

Milan’s police headquarters said the premier was conscious and apparently not badly injured.

They said the attacker was wielding a miniature statue of Milan’s Duomo, the city’s gargoyled cathedral and symbol, but could not say what the souvenir was made of.

Mr Berlusconi’s spokesman said doctors had decided to keep the premier in the city’s San Raffaele hospital overnight for observation, and that examination of his jaw area included a CT scan.

Mr Klun said: “He wanted to go home right away, but he is being held as a precaution.”

The premier suffered “a significant bruising trauma from this blunt instrument that was hurled at him”.

Police first said it appeared the attacker had punched Mr Berlusconi in the face while clutching the statue. But state TV later showed a blurry video of what appeared to be the attacker’s hand coming close to Mr Berlusconi’s face while holding the statue, then letting go of the object at the last minute as it hit the premier’s face.

Mr Berlusconi was “very shaken and demoralised”, Mr Klun said. “He didn’t understand very well what happened to him.”

Police identified the man they were questioning as Massimo Tartaglia.

The attack happened during a difficult political time for Mr Berlusconi, who has been plagued by scandals.

On December 5, tens of thousands of Italians marched peacefully through Rome to demand his resignation.

The demonstrators expressed dismay over what they see as the businessman’s conflict of interests, citing repeated government-backed laws they contend were tailored to help shield Mr Berlusconi from prosecution in cases involving his media, property and sports empire. Mr Berlusconi claims the laws benefits all citizens.

Other critics cite Mr Berlusconi’s sex scandals.

Mr Berlusconi’s wife is divorcing him after complaining about his infatuation with young women. A southern Italian businessman has told investigators he procured some 30 attractive young women for parties and dinners at the premier’s Rome residence and Sardinian villa.

Among the guests was a high-class prostitute who claimed she slept with Mr Berlusconi.

The premier has denied paying for sex and denied any wrongdoing.

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