Silvio Berlusconi's 9 political lives may have run out. Coming on the heels of Sunday's demonstration by thousands of women against Berlusconi's improprieties, a Milan magistrate has ruled that he must face a quick trial starting April 6, for moral turpitude and abuse of his position.
Berlusconi's supporters made a brave face, claiming that this was an attempt to subvert the will of the people by judges whose sympathies were with the left. Senator Cosimo Izzo, vice president of Berlusconi's Liberty Party in the Italian Senate, claimed that the judge's call for a short trial was a mockery: " Against Berlusconi an infinite trial lasting 17 years has taken place…Lords of the left, do not sing victory paeans; you are unable to beat Berlusconi at the polls."
Justice Minister Angelino Alfano claims the decision on the trial violates "the autonomy, the sovereignty and the independence of Parliament." Berlusconi has been granted immunity while in office by an act of parliament, but the court has now overruled parliament.
The girl involved in Berlusconi's Rubygate, as the Italian Press has called it, was a Moroccan girl, who when apprehended by the police was freed after their superior, the Minister of the Interior, got a call from Berlusconi. Berlusconi claimed that she was none other than the granddaughter of the then Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. This incident is where the misuse of authority charge originates.
Berlusconi's lawyers are insisting that this is what Berlusconi honestly believed to be the case and he wanted to avoid a diplomatic incident.
The opposition is calling for Berlusconi's immediate resignation so he can spare Italy the humiliation of the trial. The timing is bad for Italy because it can easily impact on her credit situation, and that is already precarious in the financial markets.
Berlusconi has been considered a PM friendly to Israel, although he has been careful to adhere to the general EU position against building in Judea and Samaria and has been supportive of a Palestinian state. Italy's foreign minister Franco Frattini, who is visiting Syria, yesterday called upon Israel to cease building and "return" the Golan to Syria. Italian journalist Giulio Menotti has charged that Italy remains a major trading partner of Iran.
Yet the climate in Italy is definitely warmer to Israel, thanks in part to more balanced coverage in Berlusconi's Mediaset empire that controls major newspapers and broadcasting outlets in Italy. Mediaset shares declined when Berlusconi's indictment became public.