Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has declared a “day of mourning for democracy” as the Senate prepared to vote on whether to kick him out of parliament following his tax fraud conviction.
Berlusconi appeared before cheering supporters outside his Roman palazzo, where he accused prosecutors of conducting “political persecution” against him over the past 20 years.
Less than a mile away the Senate was preparing to vote on whether to remove him from the chamber, based on a 2012 law that bars anyone sentenced to more than two years in prison from holding or running for public office for six years.
Berlusconi was convicted last year over the purchase of rights to broadcast US movies on his Mediaset empire through a series of offshore companies that involved the false declaration of payments to avoid taxes.
His defence argued that he was busy in politics at the time and no longer involved in managing the day-to-day activities of the business.
Italy’s high court upheld the conviction and four-year prison sentence on August 1.
Mr Berlusconi’s lawyers have argued the 2012 Senate law cannot be applied retroactively to crimes allegedly committed before it was passed.
They have denounced the insistence of Berlusconi’s opponents to go ahead with the vote before the European Court of Human Rights weighs in on whether the 2012 law violates European norms.
Berlusconi’s lawyers, Niccolo Ghedini and Franco Coppi, told reporters yesterday they were considering whether to ask an appeals court in Brescia to reopen the case in light of the new evidence they had just received – affidavits from witnesses saying Berlusconi had nothing to do with the film deals.
Mr Coppi said that Italian law allows for such a review, even after the high court has handed down its judgment, if the defendant believes that justice has not been served.
Mr Ghedini stressed that no decision had been made.
Mr Coppi said it would take months to prepare the paperwork, which includes some 15,000 pages of documentation from Hong Kong, some of it in Chinese.