Berlusconi ordered to do community service helping elderly
FORMER Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been ordered to do community service helping the elderly as his sentence for tax fraud.
A Milan court ruled yesterday that 77-year-old Berlusconi, one of Italy's richest men, must spend at least four hours a week in an old people's home for one year.
The ruling also restricts his movements, but not his political activity. The four-time prime minister will not be allowed to travel outside Lombardy, the region around Milan where he has his main residence, except for restricted trips to his home in Rome.
However, Berlusconi's allies said he would still be able to campaign for next month's European Parliament election and play a political role. The ruling does not mention any restrictions on holding political rallies or giving interviews.
Following a definitive tax fraud conviction last year, Berlusconi was stripped of his seat in the Italian Senate and barred from holding public office for two years.
But he remains the most influential politician on Italy's centre-right as leader of the Forza Italia party.
A court statement said the trips to Rome could take place weekly, from Tuesday to Thursday, with Berlusconi ordered to be back at his Lombardy residence by 11pm each Thursday.
Berlusconi is expected to begin his community service duty by the end of the month.
His lawyers Franco Coppi and Niccolo Ghedini said in a statement that the ruling "appears balanced and satisfactory even with regards to the needs of political activity".
An ally of Mr Berlusconi said the ruling was nonetheless "a deep wound for Italian democracy".
Milan prosecutors did not press for house arrest and agreed with Berlusconi's lawyers to ask for community service.