An Italian court on Friday prohibited former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from running for office for two years due to his conviction for tax fraud [JURIST report]. However, the ruling must be approved by parliament before taking effect [BBC report] because Berlusconi is currently a member of the Italian Senate [official website]. If Berlusconi is expelled from his Senate seat, he will lose parliamentary immunity from arrest and face a possible six-year ban on running for public office [Reuters report]. The Senate is expected to vote on Berlusconi's expulsion and office ban next month.
Earlier this month an Italian Senate panel voted in favor of expelling Berlusconi from parliament [JURIST report]. In August Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation [official website, in Italian] upheld [JURIST report] Berlusconi's four-year prison sentence for tax fraud. In addition to the fraud charges, Berlusconi, who stepped down as prime minister last November, has faced a number of criminal charges including publicly releasing private wiretaps, embezzlement and paying for sex with an underage prostitute [JURIST reports]. The former prime minister has been able to avoid serving any prison time by successfully appealing or allowing the statute of limitations on the charge to expire. In January 2011 the Italian Constitutional Court held hearings before striking down [JURIST reports] a bill backed by Berlusconi that would give Italian public officials amnesty from any charges while holding office.