Thursday, June 19, 2008

Berlusconi strikes again

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has a problem: he's currently on trial for corruption in Milan for allegedly bribing a witness in a previous corruption case. Fortunately, he has a solution: suspend all "non-priority" criminal trials:

There was uproar in the Italian Parliament today as Silvio Berlusconi, the centre-right Prime Minister, sought to push through a decree which the left-wing opposition said would save him from a possible prison sentence by suspending "non priority" trials for a year.


If passed the decree, part of a wider "security package" on law and order, would suspend all trials for offences committed before 2002 except in the case of crimes punishable by a prison sentence of 10 years or more and those which involve violence, the Mafia or workplace accidents. Mr Berlusconi said this was intended to speed up Italy's notoriously slow and inefficient judicial process.

However Lanfranco Tenaglia, the Shadow Justice Minister, said it was really to do with "the Prime Minister's perennial conflict of legal interests". In a letter to Renato Schifani, the Senate President and a political ally, Mr Berlusconi admitted that "my lawyers have informed me that this measure would be applicable to one of a number of fanciful trials that far-left magistrates have brought against me for political reasons".

So, change the law to let yourself off from a serious criminal offence. It's the sort of behaviour I'd expect from someone like Mugabe, not the elected leader of a supposedly western democracy. OTOH, it's not the first time Berlusconi has pulled such a stunt - in 2005, shortly before he was de-elected, he reduced Italy's statute of limitations (in the process letting murderers, rapists, and other serious violent offenders escape justice) in order to protect a crony about to be convicted of corruption. And yet, for some reason, Italians keep electing him. Do they like being ruled and represented by a corrupt little thug? Or is he really the least worst politician they can find?