Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

Silvio Berlusconi bribery trial postponed in Italy

Silvio Berlusconi in Rome, 13 January 2010
Berlusconi is back on trial after his immunity from prosecution was lifted

A corruption trial involving Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been suspended until 27 February.

Mr Berlusconi is accused of bribing his former tax lawyer to lie in two court cases in the 1990s on his behalf.

British tax lawyer David Mills has already been convicted of accepting the 450,000 euro (£400,000) bribe but has launched an appeal.

Mr Berlusconi, 73, denies the charges and did not appear at a court hearing in Milan on Friday.

His lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, said his client would attend sessions next month when there were issues of substance at hand, AP reported.

The billionaire media tycoon is back on trial after Italy's constitutional court last year overturned a law granting him immunity from prosecution while in office.

But three judges postponed the trial until Mr Mills' appeal was concluded.

Previous trials

Mr Berlusconi's popularity has risen in recent weeks following the attack on him in December.

[Berlusconi's] greatest danger would be if his own coalition fell apart
Gavin Hewitt
BBC Europe editor

Opponents say he is trying to use his extra support to push through new laws to shorten trials in Italy, including his own, says the BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Rome.

Mr Berlusconi denies that, saying the new laws are not tailor-made to help him stop his trials.

Mr Mills, the estranged husband of UK cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, was one of Mr Berlusconi's consultants on offshore tax havens.

He was accused of accepting the money as payment for keeping quiet about offshore companies during two previous trials in 1997 and 1998.

Last February, he was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for corruption.

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