Silvio Berlusconi appeals potential ouster to European court

Sept. 9, 2013 at 5:32 PM
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ROME, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has appealed his potential expulsion from the Italian Senate to a European court.

The European Court of Human Rights confirmed it received a faxed appeal from Berlusconi to examine whether a law passed in 2012 that bans politicians from serving in Italy's Parliament if they've been convicted of felony-level crimes such as his tax evasion conviction and subsequent four-year prison sentence handed down Aug. 1.

Berlusconi has argued the law is being applied retroactively because prosecutors said his crimes happened before the law was passed, though it was signed while it wound its way through the Italian court system -- and well before his eventual conviction, the Italian news agency ANSA reported Monday.

Berlusconi has threatened to have his People of Freedom Party pull out of its historic power-sharing agreement putting Prime Minister Enrico Letta's government in jeopardy.

A panel of senators began deliberations Monday to determine if Berlusconi should lose his seat.

A decision by the Senate panel could take as long as a month, but Letta denied a PdL departure would seriously affect the government and said it's unlikely legislators would follow Berlusconi out the door if he's given the boot.

"I don't think it will leave the coalition," Letta said, adding, "I'm working with the certainty that the government will continue to work and the parties will keep supporting the government."

A vote by the entire Senate is necessary for Berlusconi to lose his seat.

The center-left Democratic Party led by Letta has said it would vote for Berlusconi's removal.

The European court said a review typically takes three to four months depending on the complexity of the case. Berlusconi asked for an expedited review in his petition.

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