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Opposition on Mills case

Centre left says ruling does not clear premier

26 February, 16:52
Opposition on Mills case (See related coverage) (ANSA) - Rome, February 26 - A ruling by Italy's highest appeals court quashing a jail sentence against Silvio Berlusconi's British tax adviser because the case has expired should have no bearing on the premier's own trial for allegedly bribing him, the centre-left opposition said on Friday. Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani said the premier should seek a full acquittal rather than similarly rely on the statute of limitations which shelved the case against David Mills. "Decent people want to be acquitted not have their case timed out," said Bersani, urging Berlusconi to "seek an acquittal" at his Milan trial, which resumes on Saturday.

Most legal experts believe that the Cassation Court's decision on Mills was a sort of legal victory for Berlusconi because it means his own case will also very likely be timed outed.

The court did not say whether Mills was guilty or innocent. Antonio Di Pietro, leader of the opposition Italy of Values (IdV) Party, argued that the court had in fact found Mills guilty because it ordered him to pay 250,000 euros for damaging the image of the Italian state.

"I repeat: if someone has been bribed it means someone did the bribing and that person is Premier Silvio Berlusconi," said Di Pietro, who shot to fame as one of the main prosecutors in the 1990s Bribesville probes that wiped out the Christian Democrat and Socialist parties.

"Berlusconi should quit: a democratic and civil country cannot be lead by a corrupt man," he added. Opposition MPs also lashed out at Justice Minister Angelino Alfano for backing a suggestion by the premier's lawyer that Milan judges should in any case suspend the premier's trial immediately, to see the detailed written ruling of the Cassation Court justices, expected in about two months.

"Alfano should be ashamed of himself. He ought to recall that he is the justice minister and not Berlusconi's lawyer.

His post implies that he should defend justice on behalf of all Italians, not a sole individual," the spokesman for the IdV party Leoluca Orlando said. But Government Programs Minister Gianfranco Rotondi hailed the Cassation Court's ruling as an "act of justice".

"The case had been dragging on far too long and was being exploited against Berlusconi politically," said Rotondi.

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