Monday, June 24, 2013

Berlusconi sentenced to 7 years and banned from public office in "Ruby" sex trial

In Italy, we are used to Berlusconi’s trials. Yet, they are still worth discussing.
Just last month, an appeals court confirmed his sentence for tax fraud over deals made by his TV firm Mediaset (http://italianfactsrd.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/berlusconi-sentenced-to-jail-for-major.html).
Today, the Milan Court sentenced him to 7 years in jail and banned him from public office for life, after finding him guilty of child prostitution and abuse of power.


 Silvio Berlusconi, Karima El Mahroug ("Ruby")

According to the Court, Berlusconi paid to have sex with a Moroccan girl, Karima El Mahroug (known as Ruby “the heart-stealer”), when she was only 17 (and he was aware of her age). He also allegedly pressured the Milan central police station in order to have her released when she was arrested for theft in May 2010. This episode became particularly famous in Italy, because in order to have her free Berlusconi said one of his most colossal lies: he told the police station to let her go because she was Mubarak’s niece (Mubarak being the former Egyptian president) and they had to avoid a diplomatic incident.
Berlusconi will not spend time in jail unless the sentence is confirmed by the appeals court, and this would take a very long time. Nevertheless, this sentence is historical for Italy because it will certainly have major repercussions on the current government, a grand coalition that cannot survive without the support of Berlusconi’s party.
A few days ago an MP from The People of Freedom claimed that the whole party would resign in case of a conviction. Even if this does not happen, the leftist Democratic Party will be asked to explain how they intend to remain in government with The People of Freedom, now that Berlusconi has been sentenced in (another) trial.
Berlusconi’s sentence is the most attention-grabbing recent event in Italian politics. Letta’s government is doing very little but stalling (see the Financial Times “Letta’s lethargy”).
Now, in a country where government crises happen for much less, this sentence may bring us back to the polls even earlier than we expected.