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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 January, 2004, 14:16 GMT
Berlusconi immunity thrown out
Silvio Berlusconi
Berlusconi faces resumption of trial
Italy's constitutional court has thrown out a controversial law granting Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi immunity from prosecution.

The law, passed by parliament last year, gave Mr Berlusconi immunity as long as he remained in office.

Its rejection paves the way for the resumption of an abandoned corruption trial against Mr Berlusconi.

Critics had claimed the bill was an overt attempt to scupper the trial, and challenged it on the grounds that it breached Italian equality laws.

The constitutional court judges agreed that the law breached rules on equality, and had other concerns, reports said.

The law also applied to the holders of four other top Italian public positions.

The introduction of the law halted the trial, which was under way in Milan, and which Mr Berlusconi had already attended to give evidence in his defence.

"It's good news because we have always said that this law is unconstitutional and immoral," said former anti-corruption judge Antonio di Pietro.

Deal allegations

Mr Berlusconi, a tycoon who is Italy's richest man, was accused of attempting to bribe a judge during a business takeover deal.

Prosecutors alleged he was trying to stop a rival firm taking over state-owned food group SME in the 1980s.

Mr Berlusconi claimed the trial was politically motivated. He has said left-wing Milan magistrates are trying to undermine him, describing the charges as "fantasy".

Mr Berlusconi is believed to be worth more than 10 billion euros ($13 billion).


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's David Willey
"It's a slap in the face [for Silvio Berlusconi]"



SEE ALSO:
Italy immunity law in top court
09 Dec 03  |  Europe
Immunity challenge to Berlusconi
25 Sep 03  |  Europe
Italy immunity law provokes fury
25 Jun 03  |  Europe
Berlusconi appears in court
05 May 03  |  Europe
Berlusconi set to ride out storm
30 Apr 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Italy
26 Mar 03  |  Country profiles


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