Berlusconi’s Lawmaker Allies Protest Trials at Milan Court

Silvio Berlusconi’s allies in Italy’s parliament protested outside of the Milan Court of Justice today in a demonstration against the criminal trials faced by their hospitalized leader.

“They want to use the courts to eliminate the political leader with more votes than anyone else in the last 20 years,” Angelino Alfano, general secretary of Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party, said from the courthouse steps in remarks televised by SkyTG24. The lawmakers protested “to defend the democracy of our country and defend the republican institutions that in our view are under attack,” he said.

Berlusconi, 76, is facing verdicts as early as this month in a trial in which he is accused of paying for sex with a minor and an appeal of a tax-fraud conviction. The three-time premier, who entered the hospital last week with an eye ailment, is seeking delays in the trials because he says the condition prevents him from attending hearings. Prosecutors won the right to have court-appointed doctors review his medical case.

“That he is right now under examination is a scandalous fact,” Alfano said.

Politicians including former ministers Maurizio Gasparri and Mariastella Gelmini joined Alfano.

Verdict Due

Berlusconi was due to appear in court today to hear the prosecution’s final arguments in the prostitution case. That hearing was originally set for March 8 and was postponed due to his eye condition. The judges hearing the case granted Berlusconi’s request not to attend today and the hearing will be rescheduled , news agency Ansa reported.

The prosecutors will now conclude their case on March 18, with the defense’s closing arguments on March 25, Berlusconi lawyer Niccolo Ghedini told news agency Ansa today. The postponements may mean that the verdict won’t be handed down this month as the judge’s had intended.

The trials risk derailing a bid at a political comeback by Berlusconi, the most successful Italian politician of the last two decades. Attempts by Berlusconi’s allies to entice Pier Luigi Bersani, the top vote-getter in the February elections, into an alliance have been unsuccessful. Bersani has said he won’t renew the alliance with Berlusconi that brought Prime Minister Mario Monti to power because of the criminal trials.

Beyond the tax-fraud and sex cases, Berlusconi was convicted in a wiretapping trial in Milan last week and is under investigation in Naples for corruption.

Berlusconi was sentenced to a year in prison on March 6 in the 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. In Naples, prosecutors are probing a senator who says he was paid 3 million euros ($3.9 million) to switch to Berlusconi’s party in a previous legislature.

Berlusconi has denied all wrongdoing and remains free from prison pending appeals.

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