Berlusconi Hospital Stay Prolonged as Milan Trials Delayed
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will spend a second day in hospital with an eye inflammation his lawyers used as a reason for delaying two of his trials.
Berlusconi stayed overnight in San Raffaele Hospital and will remain there “for now,” Piero Longo, an Italian senator and one of the ex-premier’s lawyers, said by telephone today. Berlusconi was excused from a court appointment yesterday in a sex-with-minor trial.
His lawyers requested a hearing scheduled for today in a different corruption case to be postponed as he can’t attend it, Longo said. The judges accepted a request by prosecutors to send a court doctor to the hospital to check on Berlusconi’s condition, the lawyer also said.
Berlusconi, a convicted tax felon, is fending off three separate criminal cases in Milan and targeted by a corruption investigation in Naples as he seeks to maximize his influence in Italy’s next government. The three-time premier, who finished second in inconclusive parliamentary elections last month, cited an eye problem a Feb. 21 when he pulled out of a campaign event.
Today, Berlusconi was scheduled to face closing arguments in his appeal of a tax-fraud conviction, which carried a four- year prison sentence when it was handed down in October. After their visit to the clinic, the court-appointed doctors said there was “no absolute impediment” preventing the former premier from appearing at the hearing and the judges decided that the trial can go ahead, Italian newswire ANSA reported.
Yesterday prosecutors were scheduled to deliver closing arguments in the Milan trial that has Berlusconi, 76, accused of abusing the power of his office and paying for sex with a minor. He has denied the charges. That appointment has been rescheduled for March 11, Longo said.
The trials risk derailing a bid at a political comeback by Berlusconi, the most successful Italian politician of the last two decades. He was convicted to a year in prison on March 6 in a Milan wiretapping case, stemming from the publication of transcripts of bugged phone calls relating to the 2006 battle for control of Banca Nazionale del Lavoro SpA. He is free pending appeal.
Berlusconi’s health isn’t the only potential conflict that courts will face in coming weeks. The leader of Italy’s People of Liberty party will be involved in parliamentary wrangling over the formation of a new government when newly elected lawmakers convene for the first time on March 15.
Berlusconi’s plan to influence the next government involves renewing his alliance with Pier Luigi Bersani, the top vote getter. Bersani, who partnered with People of Liberty from November 2011 to December to support Prime Minister Mario Monti, has criticized Berlusconi for his criminal trials and said he will refuse to revive the alliance.
In Naples, Berlusconi is under investigation on suspicion of corruption tied to a senator who says he was paid 3 million euros to switch to Berlusconi’s party in a previous legislature to help topple the government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi. Berlusconi has denied the charges.