Berlusconi can be 'too busy' for own trial, says new law
Silvio Berlusconi is to evade prosecution over corruption charges after Italy's parliament passed a law allowing the prime minister to claim that he was too busy to attend a trial.
The law will allow Mr Berlusconi to avoid court hearings by arguing that he has a "legitimate impediment" -- for instance a cabinet meeting or other official engagement.
He argued previously that a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a stretch of new motorway was a valid excuse for not turning up at court.
There were tumultuous scenes when the Italian senate, the upper house of parliament, followed the lower house and voted in favour of the law that would allow trials involving the billionaire politician to be suspended for up to 18 months.
The new law, which will also apply to ministers in the centre-right government, will enable the media tycoon to string out the judicial process until the charges expire under Italy's statute of limitations.
Mr Berlusconi (73), who has been dogged by allegations of corruption for most of his 16-year political career, goes on trial later this month on bribery charges.
He also faces charges of tax fraud and false accounting.
He and his lawyers have been working for months on legal initiatives that his opponents say are designed to allow him to wriggle out of his judicial entanglements.
Last year Italy's highest court ruled as unconstitutional a law introduced soon after Mr Berlusconi returned to power in 2008 that gave him immunity from prosecution and froze all his trials. (© Daily Telegraph, London)