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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 November, 2003, 13:38 GMT
Berlusconi ally partially cleared
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (L) and lawmaker Cesare Previti (R) in Rome in 1997
Cesare Previti (right) has worked with Mr Berlusconi for decades
An ally of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been cleared of bribing judges in a case which saw the leader as a defendant.

Former defence minister Cesare Previti, 68, was acquitted of paying judges to stop the sale of a state food company to Mr Berlusconi's rival.

But Previti, who is already serving an 11-year term, was sentenced to five years on general corruption charges.

An immunity law presently protects Mr Berlusconi from legal action.

Reputation concern

The law was passed ahead of Italy assuming the rotating presidency of the European Union earlier this year.

It was thought the scandal could affect the prime minister's standing abroad.

His first government had collapsed amid corruption allegations.

Previti who served in Mr Berlusconi's first government in 1994 has been on trial in Milan for three years.

He was formerly a lawyer for the prime minister's Fininvest holding company.

According to BBC correspondent Tamsin Smith in Milan the ruling on Saturday is a partial victory for Mr Berlusconi.

But Previti's lawyer, Giorgio Perroni, said: "I can't be happy when an innocent man is halfway convicted."

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30 Apr 03  |  Europe
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30 Jan 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Italy
26 Mar 03  |  Country profiles

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