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Last Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Court considers Berlusconi charge
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Berlusconi says he's facing a legal witch hunt
A Milan court has started hearings to decide whether Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi should stand trial on corruption charges.

The court will also decide whether 13 other people should be tried alongside Mr Berlusconi for alleged tax fraud, embezzlement and money laundering.

British lawyer David Mills, the husband of UK government minister Tessa Jowell, is among those under investigation.

The hearing was adjourned to 7 November to allow lawyers to study new evidence.

All the accused deny any wrongdoing and did not attend the hearing.

Mr Berlusconi, who chaired a cabinet meeting on Friday, has been fighting legal battles in the courts in Milan for many years.

He has been on trial at least seven times on corruption charges relating to his business activities.

But he has never received a definitive guilty sentence and in most cases has been acquitted under the statute of limitations.

He claims he has been subjected to a legal witch hunt by left-wing prosecutors and judges.

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This latest case involves a television rights deal in America.

Prosecutors allege that Mr Berlusconi, some top executives in his media companies and the London lawyer acting for him, Mr Mills, were involved in fraud.

Mr Berlusconi has asked for the proceedings to be transferred to another city, as he claims that more than 60 judges on the Milan circuit are shareholders in his media companies and therefore cannot be considered impartial.

Court papers have been filed by prosecutors alleging a lack of co-operation by the American judiciary.

Italian investigators say the American courts have failed to hand over key evidence as they are required to do under international law.


SEE ALSO:
EU legal victory for Berlusconi
03 May 05 |  Europe
Berlusconi stuns Italian judges
05 Sep 03 |  Europe
Profile: Silvio Berlusconi
02 Jul 03 |  Europe


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