Italy’s highest appeals court on Tuesday confirmed a two-year ban from public office for center-right leader and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi over a conviction for tax fraud.
Berlusconi’s lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling of the Court of Cassation, which diminishes Berlusconi’s hopes of running as a candidate in elections for the European Parliament in May.
Berlusconi had appealed against the ban handed down by a Milan appeals court in October last year. He also faces a four-year prison sentence, commuted to one year likely to be spent doing community service, after he was found guilty in August last year of masterminding a complex system of tax evasion by his holding company Fininvest.
Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party is the largest parliamentary opposition to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s coalition government, has continued to lead his party from outside parliament since he was stripped of his seat as a senator in November.
Berlusconi, who says he will appeal to Italy’s constitutional court against the tax fraud verdict, has already appealed to the European Court of Human Rights against his expulsion from the Italian senate.
In addition to the tax fraud case, he is fighting a seven-year jail sentence issued by a Milan court last year for paying for sex with an underaged prostitute and abusing his office to cover it up.
Berlusconi, a billionaire media tycoon, denies all wrongdoing and has said he is the victim of politically motivated prosecutors and judges.
His allies criticized the latest ruling against him and said there was no doubt he would still spearhead the campaign by Forza Italia at the European Parliament elections.
“The Court of Cassation’s ruling is abnormal and unjust,” said Mariastella Gelmini, a Forza Italia deputy and former education minister, of the high court ruling. “There is an ideological prejudice against Berlusconi that annuls the rights of the defense.”
Despite his legal problems, Berlusconi continues to command a solid core of popular support.
Most opinion polls give Forza Italia about 22 percent of the vote, roughly level with Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, but trailing Renzi’s Democratic Party, which has about 30 percent.
Berlusconi is also a key player in Renzi’s attempts to reform Italy’s electoral law and political institutions.
Renzi insisted on drawing up the draft reforms currently before parliament with Berlusconi, despite resistance from members of his own party, who said that they gave too much power and influence to the former prime minister.
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,