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Italy: Berlusconi renews attack on judiciary

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Rome, 21 May (AKI) – Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has renewed his attacks on the country’s judiciary and reaffirmed his commitment to strengthen the power of the premier over the parliament. The move follows a decision by a judge earlier this week who ruled that his former corporate lawyer David Mills perjured himself to protect Berlusconi’s business empire.

Berlusconi told the annual meeting of Confindustria, Italy’s largest private employer body, that certain judges were not impartial and were “leftist extremists”. Berlusconi was himself removed from the trial under a new immunity law.

“This morning the newspapers say that you cannot criticise judges. Instead, I believe that is the right of every citizen to criticise judges,” he told the employers’ meeting in Rome.

“With regard to facts concerning me, I cannot remain silent because there are too many doubts that arise from reading the newspapers about the behaviour of the prime minister when I was an entrepreneur.”

He then turned his attention to the sentence handed down on Tuesday by judge Nicoletta Gandus.

“I have called this sentence scandalous because it is completely contrary to the truth,” Berlusconi said.

“Give me two minutes, I cannot tell you. I do not remember ever meeting the lawyer Mills.”

Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party claimed Gandus had issued her ruling – an explanation of why in February she handed British lawyer David Mills a four-and-a-half-year sentence for taking a 440,000 euros bribe from Berlusconi – to damage the premier’s popularity ahead of upcoming local and European Parliament elections.

In her 400-page reasoning, Gandus said she and her colleagues had concluded that Mills was guilty because the evidence showed that he had lied in court in two trials in 1997 and 1998 to shield Berlusconi and his Fininvest company from charges relating to the purchase of US film rights, and to “protect Berlusconi’s economic interests”.

The reasoning said Mills had accepted the bribe to act “as a false witness” and “to allow Silvio Berlusconi and his Fininvest group impunity from the charges or, at least, to keep their huge profits”.

Berlusconi on Thursday also reaffimed his commitment to proceed with reform of Italy’s judical system.

“We will not stop until we have separated the role of the magistrates from the role of prosectors,” he said.

But Berlusconi also stressed the need for parliamentary reform.

“They need young people to guarantee 98 percent of their attendance. There are deputies (MPs) whom you never see because they have more important things to do than to stay there and vote.

“But how do they vote? They look at the head of their group who lifts his thumb to say yes, extends his hand for an abstention or makes a sign with his thumb to say no.

“Now they are saying that I offend the parliament but this is the real truth – the assemblies are absolutely useless and counter productive,” he said.

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