Man arrested outside Berlusconi hospital room

 @ibtimes
on December 16 2009 9:11 AM

ROME - Italian police have arrested a 26-year-old man who tried to reach the hospital room of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is recovering from an attack on Sunday that left him with a fractured nose and broken teeth.

Milan police said the man, who appeared to have psychological problems and was from the northern city of Turin, said he wanted to talk to the 73-year-old conservative leader.

Berlusconi was struck in the face after a weekend rally when a man with a history of mental illness threw a miniature replica of Milan's cathedral at him.

Police said the man arrested on Wednesday had entered the hospital around 2 a.m. (1 a.m. British time) via the underground car park and simply took the lift to the seventh floor, where Berlusconi is convalescing.

Police said he was immediately detained and searched, but was not carrying any weapons. They said hockey sticks were found in his car.

The incident is likely to fuel further debate about Berlusconi's security, even though Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has absolved police and the prime minister's bodyguards of any blame for Sunday's attack.

The 42-year-old man arrested for that assault, Massimo Tartaglia, hurled the statuette at Berlusconi's face from close range as the prime minister was shaking hands and signing autographs after a rally in Milan's central Duomo square.

A judge upheld Tartaglia's arrest on Wednesday.

The attack on Berlusconi, a popular but divisive figure, has sparked soul-searching among Italian politicians over whether a vitriolic political climate provoked the assault.

Berlusconi's allies have accused the leftist opposition of conducting a violent campaign against the prime minister, who has been under pressure for a string of sex scandals and faces the reopening of trials for corruption and tax fraud.The government has vowed to rush out new measures like blacking out hate sites on the Internet and tightening security at public gatherings after the assault.

Facebook, where groups have sprung up praising Berlusconi's assailant Tartaglia, said on Wednesday it would remove any threatening content from its pages as soon as requested.

Berlusconi was expected to be discharged later on Wednesday, although his spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti said he was still in pain. Doctors have said he would have to refrain from intense public activities for at least two weeks.

(Reporting by Silvia Molteni and Silvia Aloisi, writing by Silvia Aloisi)

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