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Berlusconi says arrest would lead to 'revolution'

Ex-premier vows not to leave Italy

12 December, 10:53
Berlusconi says arrest would lead to 'revolution' (ANSA) - Paris, 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 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 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 also been indicted for allegedly bribing a Senator to change political sides 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 his was turfed out of parliament thanks to the votes of Premier Enrico Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

The media magnate also vowed 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," he said. "I love my country. I cannot end my adventure as a human being and patriot by escaping from Italy".