Berlusconi spared potential embarrassment

19.06.03 @ 09:45

  1. By Sharon Spiteri

Days before he is set to take over the EU helm, Italy's Premier Silvio Berlusconi has been granted immunity from prosecution as long as he remains in office.

The decision, by the Italian lower house of parliament, to pass the immunity bill proposed by Mr Berlusconi himself less than two months ago, might be the final blow to kill off a current corruption trial against him - too much time would have elapsed for a resumption of the Milan trial to be legally possible, the BBC said.

Mr Berlusconi is accused of trying to bribe judges to stop a business rival taking over a state-owned food group SME in the 1980s.

The timing of this bill will prevent Mr Berlusconi facing the risk of a guilty verdict during the Italian six-month presidency beginning 1 July.

The new law was approved with 319 votes in favour, 17 against and 13 abstentions. A large part from the opposition left the room before the vote as a sign of protest as they see the move as anti-constitutional and a blow to Italian democracy.

Court proceeding will be banned against the five top posts in government.