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Berlusconi supporters rally around leader in new probe

Move by Milan prosecutors 'Stalinist' and 'poisonous'

23 January, 16:35
Berlusconi supporters rally around leader in new probe (ANSA) - Rome, January 23 - Politicians loyal to ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi were up in arms on Thursday after it emerged that Milan prosecutors had placed the 77-year-old billionaire under investigation on suspicion of witness corruption during trials related to allegations he paid for sex with an underage prostitute called Ruby. "The Milan prosecution never disappoints in knee-jerk reactions and rapidity when it comes to Silvio Berlusconi," said Renato Brunetta, House caucus leader for Berlusconi's revived Forza Italia (FI) party. "It is not clear if the coincidence with the precise moment in politics is merely casual," he added with reference to recent fragile agreements between the centre left and centre right over much-needed reforms.

"It certainly provides fuel for the enemies of national calm and offers them poison with which to pollute democracy".

Brunetta was echoed by stalwart Berlusconi supporter and former culture minister Sandro Bondi.

"Every time politics take a step forward in the direction of change and democratic normality the Sword of Damocles represented by the Milan prosecutor's office and the judiciary invariably immediately intervenes," he said. "Italy will never see peace if its political agenda continues to be dictated by the judiciary," concluded Bondi.

Berlusconi has long held that he is the victim of persecution by allegedly left-wing magistrates and on Thursday he vowed to keep fighting and stay in politics following the announcement of the new probe. "I'm here and I'm staying here," said the centre-right leader, who remains at the helm of FI despite being ejected from parliament last year after the supreme court upheld a separate tax-fraud conviction, making it definitive. FI Senator Lucio Malan described the latest move by Milan prosecutors as "another act of Stalinist justice".