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Berlusconi's future debated

on September 09, 2013 10:10 AM

ROME (AP) — An Italian parliamentary committee begins debating Monday whether ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi should be stripped of his Senate seat following his conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi has already threatened to bring down Premier Enrico Letta’s unusual left-right government if the Senate committee votes to kick him out of parliament. His People of Freedom party is a crucial part of Letta’s coalition.

No decision is expected today, as the committee’s deliberations are expected to extend well beyond the first session.

Last month, Italy’s highest criminal court upheld Berlusconi’s conviction for tax fraud, his four-year prison term and his ban from public office. Berlusconi was found guilty of artificially inflating the amounts paid for film rights by his Mediaset empire to reduce the company’s tax liabilities.

The Senate’s deliberations aren’t based on that sentence but rather on a 2012 law that says anyone sentenced to more than two years in prison is ineligible to hold public office for six years.

Berlusconi, his allies and his lawyers have challenged the constitutionality of the law, saying in his case it would amount to a retroactive penalty — something forbidden by both the Italian constitution and the European convention on human rights.

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