Berlusconi Allies Push For Presidential Pardon After Tax Fraud Conviction, Stoking Political Tensions In Italy

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Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi

Allies of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are seeking a presidential pardon after the country’s highest court on Thursday upheld his conviction and sentence in a tax-fraud case, the Associated Press reported. Berlusconi supporters  also urged Italians to take to the streets of Rome Sunday to protest the court decision, which could lead the 76-year-old media mogul/politician to either perform socially useful services or serve a year confined at home or in prison.

The court ruling represented the first time that the three-time prime minister was definitely convicted and sentenced in two decades of trials in various legal matters, AP said.

Although Berlusconi has until mid-October to decide between confinement or the performance of socially useful services, his seat in the Italian Senate has been jeopardized by the court decision. He will eventually lose his seat unless a special exception is made.

Renato Brunetta, a leader of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, said Saturday that he has requested a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who has the power to issue a pardon in this case.

A presidential pardon could lessen Berlusconi’s punishment, but it cannot overturn his conviction, AP reported. And, under the Italian constitution, only Berlusconi, his lawyer or a family member can request a pardon. Napolitano hasn’t commented on a potential pardon.

Meanwhile, the conviction has caused much political friction in the ranks of current Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s fragile coalition government. If ministers in Berlusconi’s party quit the government -- as at least one Berlusconi ally has indicated could happen -- then the coalition might collapse. A conservative coalition led by Berlusconi won almost 30 percent of the vote in the February parliamentary elections.

One indicator of the rising tension were the remarks of longtime Berlusconi ally Sandro Bondi, who AP said warned Saturday that Italy “must find a solution or risk civil war” should the billionaire be forced to serve time and be stripped of his Senate seat.

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