Breaking Legal News - POSTED: 2011/01/17 08:51
Judges of a top Italian court began deliberating Thursday on whether to uphold a law shielding Premier Silvio Berlusconi from two trials in Milan.
The Constitutional Court must decide if the legislation complies with the constitution, including the principle that all are equal under the law. It is expected to issue its ruling later Thursday.
If the court rejects the law, Berlusconi's two trials, on corruption and tax fraud charges respectively, will resume.
Berlusconi insisted this week that his government's stability will not be affected by the decision, and that he is "totally indifferent as to whether the trials are suspended or not." He called the trials "ridiculous."
But any decision will be fraught with political repercussions, and a rejection would deal a blow to a premier already weakened by sex scandals, a fight with an ex-ally and a shaky parliamentary majority.
The legislation suspends court proceedings for up to 18 months if the defendant has a "legitimate impediment" stemming from being premier or a member of government.
The law drew accusations that it was tailor-made for the premier, but Berlusconi's lawyer told the Constitutional Court in a hearing this week that the legislation is necessary to safeguard the right to a fair defense and that the Italian criminal code already envisages cases of legitimate impediment, such as grave sickness.