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Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 16:19 UK

Fury as Berlusconi judge filmed

Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi has called himself the world's most persecuted person

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has come under fire after a TV channel he owns secretly filmed a judge who ruled against him in a bribery case.

Mr Berlusconi's Canale 5 channel aired footage of the judge taking a walk, smoking and visiting a barber shop.

A lawyers' association reported the incident to Italy's privacy watchdog and declared a "state of protest".

Earlier this month, Judge Raimondo Mesiano found Mr Berlusconi "co-responsible" of bribing legal officers.

In the hidden camera footage - which was aired on Thursday - the narrator calls the judge's behaviour "eccentric".

He points to him smoking the "umpteenth" cigarette, and calls his turquoise socks "strange".

The narrator adds: "He's impatient... he can only relax at the barber's".

Sock protest

We don't think there are similar precedents in Italy of denigrating a person and de-legitimising an essential and delicate function
Italian National Association of Magistrates

Lawyers and civil rights groups said the secret filming was an unprecedented violation of privacy of a member of the judiciary.

"We don't think there are similar precedents in Italy of denigrating a person and de-legitimising an essential and delicate function," the Italian National Association of Magistrates said in a statement.

The leader of the opposition Democratic Party, Dario Franceschini, reportedly wore a pair of turquoise socks on Sunday to show solidarity with the judge.

'Notoriety'

Mediaset, which owns Canale 5, defended the broadcast, saying it showed a magistrate who "has acquired national and international notoriety".

On 5 October, Judge Mesiano found Mr Berlusconi "co-responsible" for the bribery of a judge who decided in favour of his holding company, Fininvest, in a business takeover deal.

Fininvest was ordered to pay 750m euros ($1.1bn; £685m) in compensation to its rival company.

Mr Berlusconi claims that Italy's legal system is packed with left-wing magistrates who are out to get him.

Earlier this month, Italy's top court lifted a law granting him immunity while in office.

Correspondents say the ruling means the 73-year-old billionaire may have to face a number of trials for corruption and bribery within months.



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