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5th Mar 2024

Broken nose culminates year of scandal for Italian leader

  • Mr Berlusconi at an EU summit last week, where he allegedly drew women's knickers out of boredom (Photo: Council of European Union)

Scandal-prone Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi is recovering in hospital after having his nose and teeth broken by a man who hit him in the face with a statuette after a rally in Milan.

Images of the shocked and bloody prime minister were shown on all Italian TV stations on Sunday night (13 December). The attacker, identified as 42-year old Massimo Tartaglia, was detained by police immediately after the incident, as Mr Berlusconi was being rushed to the hospital.

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Mr Tartaglia does not have a criminal record. But according to Italian daily Corriere della Sera, he has been receiving treatment for mental health problems over the past 10 years. "It wasn't me. I am nobody," he reportedly said when seized by Mr Berlusconi's guards.

The premier's doctor, Alberto Zangrillo, said Mr Berlusconi could be kept in hospital for 48 hours. "He suffered a big trauma to his face with two evident wounds on the upper lip, one external and one internal which needed surgical suture," the doctor explained.

The rally in Milan included a small group of protesters who booed the Italian leader and called him a "bufoon". Mr Berlusconi lost his temper and said they should be "ashamed." But the attack took place later, as he was signing autographs close to his car.

The billionaire media tycoon has been attacked before. In 2004, while in Rome, a young man hit him in the head with a camera tripod.

A national embarrassment to some, but still backed by most Italians, Mr Berlusconi has this year been at the centre of a series of sex-scandals involving teenagers and call-girls.

He has also tried to clamp down on opposition media and publicly lashed out at the country's venerable president Giorgio Napolitano.

Tens of thousands joined an anti-Berlusconi rally in Rome last week, with Sunday's assault signaling an increased "climate of violence" in the anti-Berlusconi backlash, his spokesman, Paolo Bonaiuti, said.

"This hurts the country," he added.

An article in the British tabloid, the Mail on Sunday, is unlikely to enhance the Italian leaders' standing on the world stage.

The paper cites unnamed sources as saying that at an EU summit last week, the Italian premier made doodles of women's underwear and passed them round to his other EU leaders during a debate on climate change.

"No one could believe it," the unnamed official told the British newspaper. "He was scribbling away and then sent round some jottings with women's knickers on it. Some people were amused. Some were not."

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