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Berlusconi indictment request for wiretap of Left ex-leader

Would be premier's fifth trial

22 September, 12:57
Berlusconi indictment request for wiretap of Left ex-leader (ANSA) - Rome, September 22 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi could face another criminal trial after a Milan prosecutor on Thursday made an indictment request over a wiretap case.

Prosecutor Maurizo Romanelli filed the request over Berlusconi's alleged involvement in receiving illegally obtained wiretap evidence, the contents of which his brother Paolo later published in Paolo's conservative newspaper Il Giornale.

Milan Chief Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati said that in upcoming discussions with a preliminary hearings judge the prosecutors would decide whether to pursue or drop the case.

In December prosecutors had asked for charges to be dropped against Berlusconi.

However, Stefania Donadeo, a preliminary judge in Milan, refused this request last week and told prosecutors to formulate a petition for Berlusconi to be sent to trial.

Another preliminary judge will now decide whether to indict Berlusconi, who already faces four trials in Milan, three for alleged corruption and one concerning allegations he paid to have sex with an underage prostitute and abused his office to try to cover it up.

Prosecutors in Naples have also summoned the premier to face questioning about whether he was the target of extortion over his alleged use of prostitutes.

In the ongoing and several other previous trials, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly leftwing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons.

In more than a dozen cases, the premier has never received a definitive conviction, sometimes because of law changes passed by his governments, while some other charges were timed out by the statute of limitations.

The wiretap case regards the publication of a conversation in 2005 between the head of the one-time opposition Democratic Left (DS) party, Piero Fassino, and Giovanni Consorte, the former chairman of Unipol, an association of insurers historically linked to the DS, Italy's former Communist Party.

At the time Unipol came close to taking over one of Italy's leading banks, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), and Fassino was recorded as saying "we have a bank!".

Fassino, now mayor of Turin, was widely criticised for the comment, especially among the rank and file of the DS, which has since turned into a slightly larger centre-left group, the Democratic Party.

Paolo Berlusconi has already been indicted over the case and the first hearing is scheduled to take place next month.

Also at the request of preliminary judge Donadeo, prosecutors on Thursday put Maurizio Belpietro, the editor of Il Giornale when the wiretaps were published, under investigation.

Two other people have already been convicted for involvement in the case.

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