Berlusconi calls for judicial reform, new immunity law

Friday, February 18, 2011

ROME - Italy’s beleaguered Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, facing trial for having sex with a teenaged prostitute, has called for an overhaul in the judicial system and said political leaders should be free from prosecution.

Arguing that he has been targeted by the “socialist judges” for political motives, the prime minister said the judiciary should be reformed and the immunity law - similar to the one rejected by the constitutional court last month - should be established and extended to members of parliament, Xinhua reported.

The argument came after a Milan court Tuesday ordered a fast-track trial to look into the charges against Berlusconi. The hearing is scheduled to begin April 6.

Italy’s constitutional court in January abolished a controversial immunity law that protected Berlusconi and a handful of other government officials from prosecution.

The move paved the way for Milan prosecutors to file charges against the 74-year-old leader Feb 9 over his alleged relationship with Moroccan-born cabaret dancer Karima el Mahrough, popularly known by her stage name “Ruby”.

It is alleged that Berlusconi had sex with El Mahrough, when she was 17 and also used his influence to help her after she was arrested for theft in May last year.

Berlusconi’s critics termed his Friday’s argument as an attempt to get support from members of the legislative body.

As of November last year, around two dozen members of the 630-member lower house of the parliament had been indicted for felonies at some point in their career.

According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, at least another 10 members were facing some kind of criminal or serious civil investigation.

In that same lower house, Berlusconi narrowly dodged a collapse of his government in a Dec 14 confidence vote, when he held onto power by a slim two-vote majority.

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