Berlusconi allies fight to get premier off hook for bribery
SILVIO Berlusconi's supporters in the Italian parliament were last night fighting to push through law changes seen as an attempt to save the premier from a bribery conviction.
Outraged opposition MPs threatened a "parliamentary Vietnam", as they prepared to fight the plans to shorten the statute of limitations -- a move that would lead to dozens of criminal trials being killed off and would allow the premier to walk free.
Mr Berlusconi is charged with paying the British lawyer David Mills $600,000 (€414,000) to lie on his behalf in court. Mills was found guilty but his jail sentence was quashed because there was not time for his second appeal to be heard.
The new proposals would see trials timed-out more quickly for people such as the premier, who do not have secure convictions. Mr Berlusconi, while found guilty of other crimes in lower courts, has been cleared on appeal or benefitted from the existing statute of limitations. Under the proposal, the Mills bribery trial involving the premier would be killed off next month instead of in 2012.
The result of the voting was expected last night. In theory, his coalition has a slim majority in the lower house, but its populist, right-wing Northern League ally has been reticent in supporting legislation that might be portrayed as an amnesty for criminals.
The leading centre-right house speaker, Gianfranco Fini, remarked: "If the law is supposed to be equal for all, then it should be equal for everybody."
Magistrates warned that the proposals would end key prosecutions. The opposition pledged to use every tactic at its disposal to block the changes. (© Independent News Service)