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Berlusconi 'clashes' with judiciary 'have slowed reform'

Speeding trials, easing jail overcrowding 'urgently needed'

24 January, 12:38
Berlusconi 'clashes' with judiciary 'have slowed reform' (ANSA) - Rome, January 24 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's feud with magistrates he claims have waged a 20-year war to eject him from politics is the biggest obstacle to much-needed reform of Italy's snail-paced and allegedly politicised justice system, Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri said Friday.

"The political and institutional clash that has been going on for some time has contributed to slowing the reforming process the country urgently needs," Cancellieri said at a ceremony marking the start of Italy's judicial year.

Berlusconi, ejected from parliament last year on a tax-fraud ban he claims was improperly applied, has faced around 20 trials since entering politics in 1994.

Last August's tax-fraud sentence was his first binding conviction.

He and his revived Forza Italia (FI) party have continued protesting inside and outside parliament against allegedly left-wing magistrates out to get the three-time premier.

His other legal woes include a first-instance conviction for sex with an underage prostitute and he faces a trial for allegedly bribing a Senator to switch sides.

On Thursday FI erupted in fury once more when Berlusconi was placed under investigation for alleged witness-tampering in a trial of three associates found guilty of pimping for him.

Judicial reform is one of the items on the agenda of Premier Enrico Letta's revamped left-right government.

Letta aims to speed up a system that frightens foreign firms from investing in Italy and take measures to cut overcrowding in Italy's jails, which are bursting at the seams amid a wave of suicides.