Berlusconi to stand trial, vows to cling to power

MILAN, Michele Leridon - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will stand trial on corruption charges, authorities said Saturday, as the premier defiantly insisted he would not step down even if found guilty.
A trial date was set of November 27 for the corruption trial, judicial sources said, following a top court's decision earlier this month to strip Berlusconi of his immunity from prosecution.

Berlusconi to stand trial, vows to cling to power
But the scandal-plagued premier, whose political career has been marked by repeated battles with the law, said a conviction would only toughen his resolve to cling to office, in comments published Saturday.
"I still have confidence in the existence of serious magistrates who issue serious sentences, based on facts," Berlusconi said, according to extracts of interviews he gave to journalist Bruno Vespa for a book.
"If there is a conviction at trial, we would be confronted with such a subversion of the truth that I would all the more feel the duty to resist (and stay) at my post to defend democracy and rule of law," he said.
"We will go to court and we will win," added Piero Longo, one of Berlusconi's lawyers.
His corruption trial was suspended last year after Italy's parliament passed legislation giving the premier immunity.
But the Constitutional Court struck down the law on October 7, paving the way for legal cases against the 73-year-old premier to start up again.
After the ruling, Berlusconi lamented he was "the person the most persecuted by the judiciary of all times, in all history."
In the corruption case, Berlusconi is accused of paying his British former tax lawyer, David Mills, 600,000 dollars (400,000 euros) to give false evidence in two trials in the 1990s.
Mills, who was tried separately, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail over the case in February.
The estranged husband of British Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, Mills once admitted receiving the money from Berlusconi but said it had been "in recognition" for his work.
He later withdrew the statement and said the money was paid to him by Italian shipbuilder Diego Attanasio.
Berlusconi is also facing another, less high-profile court case which is due to start on November 16.
It involves allegations that his television empire Mediaset overcharged for television broadcasting rights, which prosecutors say led to a loss of revenue for Italian tax authorities.
The decision to strip the Italian premier of his immunity was the latest blow to the billionaire media tycoon, who has been struggling to control the fallout from a slew of sex scandals.
And it came only days after a Milan court ordered his media empire Fininvest to pay a record fine of 750 million euros (xx dollars), ruling that the company had obtained a favourable legal decision through bribery.
Berlusconi's battles with the law have marked his public life since he burst on to the political scene in the mid-1990s.
He has faced charges including corruption, tax fraud, false accounting and illegally financing political parties.
Although some initial judgments have gone against him, he has never been definitively convicted.

Sunday, November 1st 2009
Michele Leridon

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