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Top court sets July 30 for appeal of Berlusconi fraud conviction

July 10, 2013 at 8:46 AM

ROME, July 10 (UPI) -- Lawyers for former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said they were shocked by the country's top court's swift action to hear his appeal in a fraud case.

The Court of Cassation on Tuesday scheduled July 30 to hear the final appeals trial of Berlusconi's conviction on tax evasion through manipulating film rights for Mediaset, part of his family's media empire, the ANSA news agency reported.

Last month, the Constitutional Court upheld a lower court's sentencing of Berlusconi to four years in prison and banning him from public office for five years. The sentence will not be enforced unless upheld by the Cassation Court.

Defense attorney Niccolo Ghedini said the Court of Cassation rarely rushes a case and setting a July 30 hearing date "is beyond all logic."

Berlusconi and his team have long argued numerous court cases against him resulted from a left-wing conspiracy.

Lawmakers and politicians of Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party also reacted angrily to the Cassation Court's speedy scheduling, ANSA said.

Mara Carfagna, who was a member of Berlusconi's Cabinet, expressed surprise at the speedy hearing.

"If justice was always this fast, we would have resolved a large part of our problems," Carfagna said.

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