Italy judge says Berlusconi corruption trial to proceed despite bias claim

[JURIST] The Italian judge presiding over the corruption trial [JURIST report] of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his former lawyer David Mills said Friday accord to Reuters that hearings in the case will continue despite a request for her removal by Berlusconi's lawyers. Berlusconi's legal team claimed [ANSA report] judge Nicoletta Gandus was biased after she commented on laws passed by the previous Berlusconi government; they also said she had a vested interest in another trial involving Berlusconi and Mills because she previously owned shares of Berlusconi's broadcasting company, Mediaset [corporate website]. Berlusconi faces charges of corruption arising from his alleged payment of $600,000 to Mills for favorable testimony at trials in the 1990s. The trial is set to continue on July 7. Gandus's removal hearing is also set for July. Reuters has more.

Earlier this week Berlusconi suggested that proposed changes to Italian law [PDF text, in Italian] designed to suspend older trials for nonviolent crimes would allow the country's judiciary to consider more important cases [Senate letter, in Italian] and would give the government time to introduce judicial reforms. The changes would protect high-ranking government officials from prosecution during their terms in office. Critics of the proposal have charged that the move is personally motivated since Berlusconi's trial would be among those suspended. Berlusconi has faced trial on at least six occasions involving charges of embezzlement, false accounting, tax fraud, money laundering, and giving false testimony [JURIST reports] involving Mediaset.

 

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