Napolitano Asks Judges to Ease Strain After Berlusconi March

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano urged judges to help ease tensions with lawmakers after Silvio Berlusconi’s political allies protested outside of a Milan courthouse against the former premier’s criminal trials.

“We have to avoid destabilizing tensions for our democratic system,” Napolitano said late yesterday in an e-mailed statement after meeting with the heads of an association of judges. “There is unfortunately at the moment a new and alarming exchange of arguments among voices coming from the one side and from the other.”

Napolitano is intervening as prosecutors in Milan seek to scuttle Berlusconi’s requests for trial delays and make way for verdicts as early as this month in his sex-with-a-minor case and his appeal of a tax-fraud conviction. While earlier yesterday Napolitano reprimanded the lawmakers who rallied on Berlusconi’s behalf, the president said in his subsequent statement that he understood their concerns.

Napolitano, 87, was criticized today by Beppe Grillo, head of the third-biggest parliamentary force, for giving an audience at the presidential palace to the leaders of the protest. Napolitano met with Berlusconi’s chief allies, including Angelino Alfano, general secretary of the People of Liberty party, or PDL, before his appointment with the judges.

Napolitano listened “with great attention” to the PDL’s concerns, said Alfano, the justice minister in Berlusconi’s most recent government, in a posting on Twitter Inc.

‘Poor Country’

“Poor country, where the president instead of going on primetime television to condemn an act of enormous subversion like the sad procession of parliamentarians in the halls of justice, receives Alfano,” Grillo said in a blog post.

Berlusconi, 76, finished second in inconclusive general elections last month and is set to negotiate with rival political forces in an attempt to cobble together a parliamentary majority. Napolitano will arbitrate the talks and appoint a prime minister.

Berlusconi, a billionaire and three-time premier, won delays to his trials in Milan after entering the hospital and demonstrating to court-appointed doctors that he was prevented from attending hearings by an eye ailment. Closing arguments are due to be made in the trial that has Berlusconi accused of paying for sex with a minor as well as the appeal to his four-year prison sentence for tax fraud. He has denied the charges.

Berlusconi is free pending appeal of the March 6 conviction in a 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 under investigation in Naples on suspicion of corruption tied to a senator who switched parties to support the PDL in a previous legislature.

He has denied the charges.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.