Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Roman Polanski would love Berlusconi's lawyer, who does not understands Noblesse Oblige either.

October 7, 2009

Berlusconi lawyers use ‘Animal Farm’ defence in plea to keep him above law

Niccolo Ghedini, left, and Gaetano Pecorella

Niccolo Ghedini, left, and Gaetano Pecorella have said that Mr Berlusconi should be treated differently by the law

Silvio Berlusconi’s lawyers fought to save his political career yesterday by arguing that the law should regard him as “first above equals” and continue to protect him from prosecution.

On the first day of a hearing to determine whether the Italian Prime Minister will continue to avoid a series of trials that could bring down his Government, his legal team provoked outrage by telling the country’s highest court that he should be regarded as a special case.

In his address to the Constitutional Court, Gaetano Pecorella, one of four lawyers representing Mr Berlusconi, said that the Prime Minister could no longer be regarded in the same way as other politicians.

“He is no longer ‘first among equals’, but ought to be considered ‘first above equals,” he told the court.

Niccolo Ghedini, also representing Mr Berlusconi, said: “The law is equal for everyone, but not always in its application.”

The long-awaited hearing took place one day after another judge said that Mr Berlusconi was “co-responsible for corruption” in a bribery case revolving around a hostile takeover of a publishing firm by his media empire in the 1990s. Rumours are circulating of a potential coup or snap election, although Mr Berlusconi has vowed to continue governing until the end of his mandate in 2013.

The arguments of his lawyers were criticised by opposition politicians, who said that they resembled the motto in George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm — “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”. Massimo Donadi, of the Italy of Values party, said: “Mr Ghedini is inspired by Orwell. And specifically the pigs in the satirical novel, Animal Farm.”

The lawyers were addressing a senior panel of judges who retired to consider in private whether to uphold the law passed by Mr Berlusconi, as one of his first acts of government, that exempted him from criminal prosecution.

The 15-judge panel is said to be split on whether to uphold the Lodo Alfano law that protects the four most senior office holders in Italy. The court must decide if it violates the principles of the Italian Constitution, in particular Article 3, which states that all Italians are equal before the law.

If the court rules that the law is unconstitutional it would mean than Mr Berlusconi, 73, will have to fight a number of cases.

It is likely to be far more damaging than any of the sex scandals during his premiership.

The law came into effect when Mr Berlusconi was a co-defendant in the trial of David Mills, his former tax adviser and the estranged husband of the British MP Tessa Jowell. He was accused of bribing him to give false testimony in two previous trials.

Mr Berlusconi was removed from proceedings and Mr Mills was sentenced to four and a half years for perjury. It is the most high-profile of a number of cases that could be resurrected should the Prime Minister be stripped of his immunity.

A case in Milan concerns alleged irregularities within Mr Berlusconi’s company Mediaset regarding the sale of film rights.

Another involves a hearing in Rome, which could decide whether Mr Berlusconi should be sent to trial for allegedly attempting to bribe senators to bring down the previous centre-left Government.

Mr Berlusconi has faced charges of corruption, tax fraud, false accounting and illegally financing political parties. He has never been convicted. The Constitutional Court was expected to rule today.

However, some observers think it may adjourn until next week because of accusations from supporters of Mr Berlusconi that the ruling in the corruption case was timed to influence the Constitutional Court judges.

The judges can uphold or reject the immunity law or just veto parts of it. The court insisted that it will not a take “a political decision, but a technical one”.

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