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Berlusconi says Italy will rebel if he's arrested

Ex-premier vows not to leave Italy

12 December, 16:50
Berlusconi says Italy will rebel if he's arrested (By Paul Virgo) (see related story on Letta) (ANSA) - Rome, December 12 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday that there would be a revolution in Italy if he were arrested.

Berlusconi lost his parliamentary immunity from arrest and from being wiretapped last month when he was ejected from the Senate after a tax-fraud conviction was upheld by the supreme court in August.

It was the three-time premier's first definitive conviction in two decades of legal battles that he alleges are the result of a campaign by left-wing elements in the judiciary to eliminate him from the political arena.

The 77-year-old billionaire is also appealing convictions for having sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his power to cover it up, and for involvement in the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap.

He has been indicted for allegedly bribing a Senator to change political sides too and is being investigated in other criminal probes.

In the spring he is expected to start serving community service for the remaining one year of the tax-fraud conviction - cut from four years by an amnesty - as he is too old to actually do the sentence in prison.

"They can check my telephone, they have taken away my passport and they can arrest me when they want," Berlusconi told French radio station Europe 1. "But I'm not afraid. If they do so, there will be a revolution in Italy". He added that an eventual arrest would guarantee that his centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party wins a majority at the next general election.

Berlusconi wants new elections in May after FI pulled its support from the country's left-right coalition government shortly before he was turfed out of parliament thanks to the votes of Premier Enrico Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

He accused the PD of committing "political homicide" by joining the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) in voting for him to be ejected from parliament on the basis on a 2012 anti-corruption law.

Letta's government has managed to stay afloat with the support of Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano's New Centre Right (NCD) party, which is made up of moderates who split from Berlusconi's loyalists.

The ex-premier continues to protest his innocence and is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights and seeking to have the tax-fraud case reopened in Brescia.

He also argues that the 2012 anti-corruption law is being applied retroactively in his case, which is against the Italian Constitution.

The anti-corruption law was adopted before the supreme court upheld the tax-fraud conviction, although the original sentence predates it.

The media magnate also vowed Wednesday that he would not try to flee Italy to escape from his legal problems. "I'm not afraid of them sending me to prison. It'll be difficult for them to do because I'd immediately have the overwhelming majority of the country with me at the next elections," Berlusconi said. "I love my country. I cannot end my adventure as a human being and patriot by escaping from Italy".