'Berlusconi corruption trial on Nov 27' | world | Hindustan Times
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'Berlusconi corruption trial on Nov 27'

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will go on trial on corruption charges November 27, judicial sources said on Saturday, after a top court this month stripped him of his immunity.

world Updated: Nov 01, 2009 00:06 IST

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will go go on trial on corruption charges November 27, judicial sources said on Saturday, after a top court this month stripped him of his immunity.

The trial was suspended last year after Italy's parliament passed legislation giving the premier immunity. But the Constitutional Court struck down the law on October 7, paving the way for legal cases against Berlusconi to resume.

Berlusconi is accused of paying his British former tax lawyer, David Mills, 600,000 dollars (400,000 euros) to give false evidence in two trials in the 1990s.

Mills, who was tried separately, is appealing a guilty verdict delivered in February, when he was sentenced to four and a half years in jail.

Berlusconi, 73, has vowed to serve out the rest of his five-year term, which he won in April 2008, even if he is convicted.

"I still have confidence in the existence of serious magistrates who issue serious sentences, based on facts," Berlusconi said according to extracts released on Saturday of interviews he gave to journalist Bruno Vespa for a book.

"If there is a conviction at trial, we would be confronted with such a subversion of the truth that I would all the more feel the duty to resist (and stay) at my post to defend democracy and rule of law," he said.

"We will go to court and we will win," said Piero Longo, one of Berlusconi's lawyers.

In other comments to Vespa, Berlusconi expressed confidence that Mills's conviction would be overturned.

Mills, the estranged husband of British Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, once admitted receiving the money from Berlusconi but said it had been "in recognition" for his work.

He later withdrew the statement and said the money was paid to him by Italian shipbuilder Diego Attanasio.

Another court case against Berlusconi is due to start on November 16, but it is less high-profile than the corruption trial.

This first case involves allegations over television broadcasting rights, which prosecutors say led to a loss of revenue for Italian tax authorities.

The billionaire media tycoon has remained defiant despite the decision to quash his immunity from prosecution, which came hot on the heels of a slew of scandals related to his private life.

After judges removed his protection from prosecution, the Italian premier lamented he was "the person the most persecuted by the judiciary of all times, in all history."

Berlusconi said he had made more than 2,500 court appearances and spent more than 200 million euros (294.4 million dollars) on his defence in the various legal cases against him.

The decision to strip the premier of his immunity also came several days after a Milan court ordered his media empire Fininvest to pay a record fine of 750 million euros.

The court ruled the company had obtained a favourable legal decision through bribery.

Berlusconi's battles with the law have marked his public life since he burst on to the political scene in the mid-1990s.

He has faced charges including corruption, tax fraud, false accounting and illegally financing political parties.

Although some initial judgments have gone against him, he has never been definitively convicted.