An Italian court on Wednesday ordered former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to stand trial for allegedly bribing a senator to step down from a rival center-left party, which helped lead to the downfall of Romano Prodi's government in 2008. Judge Amelia Primavera set the trial for a corruption charge against Berlusconi to begin February 11 in Naples. The prosecutors accuse [AKI report] Berlusconi of having paid former senator Sergio De Gregorio €3 million following the parliamentary election in 2006 to defect from the small Italy of Values party and join the center right.
On Friday an Italian court prohibited Berlusconi from running for office for two years [JURIST report] due to his conviction for tax fraud [JURIST report]. 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.