Berlusconi bids to save Senate seat
Takes case to European Court of Human Rights28 August, 18:26
Lawyers for Berlusconi, who was convicted of tax fraud earlier this month, have sought leave appeal his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
At the same time, his lawyers also filed a sheaf of legal opinions in Berlusconi's favour with a key Senate committee and launched an appeal at Italy's Constitutional Court, in a case that has far wider implications for Italy's political stability.
At the core of their case is the argument that the legislation allowing his fellow senators to vote to strip Berlusconi of his seat should not be applied because it took affect after his conviction for tax fraud.
And that, they say, is unconstitutional and contravenes his basic legal rights to not be subjected to laws that did not exist at the time of his August 1 conviction – the first-ever binding conviction in a criminal court against Berlusconi, founder of the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party.
The anti-corruption law that includes the provision against convicted criminals continuing in politics was introduced last December under former Justice Minister Paola Severino but only recently took effect.
The Senate, where the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) holds a narrow majority, is scheduled to decide on Sept. 9 whether to ratify stripping Berlusconi of his Senate seat.
The case has far wider implications than Berlusconi's seat.
The PdL, locked in a very fragile and uneasy coalition with the PD, has threatened to pull out of the government and let it crash if the Senate votes to expel their leader.
Many have speculated that President Giorgio Napolitano could decide to pardon Berlusconi, especially if the tycoon first chose to step down from the Senate voluntarily, in an effort to shore up government stability. Doing so, according to ex-premier Mario Monti, would help "overcome the partisanship of hate and scorn" rife in Italian politics. Beppe Fioroni, a former PD cabinet minister, weighed in on the case Wednesday, suggesting the Senate should consider Berlusconi's arguments.
Fioroni said he saw merit in the arguments of other PD members that it could be useful to have the new anti corruption law held up to constitutional scrutiny.
Hearing Berlusconi's appeals would also serve to demonstrate the PD is not driven by political bias.
"In Italy, the laws are respected, judgments apply as the logical consequence of that belief," he said. "If the PdL has serious elements of clarification (that) are neither subterfuge nor trivial waste of time," they should be heard.