Rapid recovery by Berlusconi raises suspicions
IT has been a remarkably swift recovery. Forty days after he was seen on television with blood streaming down his face after being struck by a souvenir model of Milan cathedral, Silvio Berlusconi was out and about yesterday for a meeting with Gianfranco Fini, his main political partner -- and rival -- with hardly a scratch on him.
So is it too remarkable?
On the internet and at dinner parties from Rome to Milan, conspiracy theories abound. With the prime minister facing corruption trials, sex scandals and regional elections in March -- and with Mr Fini said to be manoeuvring to replace him as leader of the Centre Right -- was Mr Berlusconi's attack faked in a bid for sympathy? Or were his injuries exaggerated?
Mr Berlusconi's supporters called such allegations "grotesque". Even opposition leaders dismissed them, pointing out that Mr Berlusconi was popular and did not need to fake an assault.
Doctors at the Milan hospital where Mr Berlusconi was taken testified to his injuries, including a fractured nose, gashes to his lip and cheek and two broken teeth.
Massimo Tartaglia (42) was arrested and later apologised. This week he was transferred to a psychiatric hospital.
The suspicion that all was not quite what it seemed emerged when a video posted on YouTube showed Mr Berlusconi covering his face with a handkerchief while he was bundled into his car, where an aide could be seen handing him something. Instead of driving straight off, Mr Berlusconi waved to the crowd. Subtitles on the commentary asked why his shirt and jacket were not drenched if he lost half a litre of blood, as hospital officials claimed.
The conspiracy theories were revived this week when the Milan prosecutor ordered an independent medical examination of Mr Berlusconi's injuries. He will be examined on Monday to establish "the extent and nature of his injuries, whether they are permanent or not, and the time needed for them to heal", prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said that the examination was a routine procedure to help to decide what charges to bring. (© The Times London)