Hours after a bill was passed freezing one of his own trials, Silvio Berlusconi (photo) has labelled Italy’s judiciary a “cancerous growth”.
In a Milan court, Italy’s prime minister is facing a corruption case, but the hearing would be postpone for a year thanks to the new law.
Top public figures will be given immunity from prosecution with another bill that the government is set to introduce.
Though he has always protested his innocence, Mr Berlusconi has faced corruption charges in the court for many years. He has long been the victim of politically biased judges and prosecutors, he argues.
Mr Berlusconi was found guilty in one corruption case, but the verdict was overturned on appeal, and other cases were too old to bring to trial.
As part of Mr Berlusconi’s crime crackdown, the stated aim of the new law is to prioritise trials of violent crime and Mafia cases to avoid danger of them elapsing.
Silvio Berlusconi is using the law to avoid his new term of office being disrupted by further court appearances, say the critics.
To a conference of shopkeepers, Italy’s prime minister crossed his wrists as if in handcuffs.
“Many prosecutors would like to see me like this”, he told the crowd.
A mixture of jeers, boos and applause greeted the gesture.
Mr Berlusconi said he had been persecuted since entering politics in 1994, and claimed to have spent 174m euros on legal fees in a series of cases linked to his business empire.
A new bill will be presented on Friday by Mr Berlusconi’s office, which aim at suspending any trials of the five top public office holders during the period in which they serve, including the president and the prime minister.
Five years ago, Mr Berlusconi passed a similar law, that was subsequently thrown out by the constitutional court, which reactivated proceedings against him.
Italy’s Senate, the upper house of parliament, passed the bill that will freeze for a year trials concerning alleged offences, carrying a sentence of less than 10 years.
The government has been urged by Italy’s National Magistrates’ Association to abandon this measures. It said the measure would affect some 100 000 trials and caused chaos in the justice system.
The new measures were perfectly fair, Mr Berlusconi’s personnal lawyer, a member of parliament who helped draft the new legislation, told reporters.
The accused could ask for their trial to go ahead normally, pointed out the lawyer, which he said Mr Berlusconi would do in one pending case.
For concentrating on his own legal problems, Mr Berlusconi is coming under increasing political attack, says the BBC’s David Willey in Rome.
To critics he should be concentrating on national issues, like the future of the almost bankrupt national airline Alitalia, and the Naples rubbish crisis.