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Berlusconi slams judges during 'false testimony' trial

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday slammed judges as "a cancer of democracy" during his first appearance at a trial for bribery, one of three court cases he is currently facing.

world Updated: May 09, 2011 22:39 IST
AFP
Hindustantimes

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday slammed judges as "a cancer of democracy" during his first appearance at a trial for bribery, one of three court cases he is currently facing.

He was speaking during a break in the hearing where he is charged with paying his former British lawyer David Mills $ 600,000 to give false testimony about his business dealings.

He again laid into the prosecutors in Milan, accusing them of persecuting him for political reasons.

Such magistrates "are the cancer of our democracy, responsible for repeated attempts at subversion", he said, while praising as "heroes" those judges who rejected prosecutors' accusations.

Berlusconi branded the Mills case "incredible, really surreal," claiming "there is no motive for corruption, no proof that money was paid, nothing."

He denied ever knowing Mills, who was found guilty in 2009 of receiving the 416,000 euros and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. An appeals court quashed the case in 2010 because had run out of time.

The case was adjourned until May 16, when former Renault Formula 1 team boss Flavio Briatore will appear as a witness.

It was the first time that the 74-year-old premier had appeared before the tribunal to answer the claims that he paid Mills to come up with testimony he knew to be false.

Before the hearing a score of supporters of Berlusconi faced off against a similar number of defenders of the magistracy as Italy held its annual commemoration of victims of terror attacks.

Giant photos of two Milan judges and a lawyer were hung outside the courthouse along with a banner expressing thanks to magistrates and police for their actions.

A total of 26 judges and prosecutors were killed during the 1970s when the left-wing Red Brigades and extreme rightists carried out assassinations and bombings, or in later mafia attacks.

As Berlusconi uttered his vituperations, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was leading an emotive ceremony of commemoration in Rome.

The Mills case is one of three pending trials in which Berlusconi is a defendant.

The prime minister is accused of paying for sex with an underage prostitute nicknamed "Ruby the Heart Stealer" and then trying to cover it up through abuse of power.

Berlusconi also faces allegations of fraud in the purchase of television distribution rights bought by Mediatrade-RTI, part of his Mediaset media empire, but it is not yet decided whether the case should go to trial.

The prime minister branded the sex case "a joke" and a "trial by media" Monday, but said he would appear in the dock "if it really happens" to give his version of the facts.

ht epaper

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