Berlusconi 'throws legal system into chaos to save ally'

Hundreds of serious crimes will go unpunished and many whose sentences have already been confirmed by a lower appeals court will walk free.

Many other cases that are in an earlier phase will also be affected, including the brutal attack by riot police on activists and journalists sleeping in the Diaz school in Genoa during the G8 meeting of 2001, in which dozens were seriously injured. Several of the victims were British.

Next week the trial of the officers blamed for the violence begins in earnest in Genoa - but the new law is likely to render it null and void. The trial will get under way, but will never finish. No one will be punished.

The Bill has been nicknamed the "Save Previti Law" by opponents of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who claim it is just the latest case in which the media magnate has misused his position to allow him and his friends to dodge justice.

Cesare Previti, 70, who served as minister of defence in Mr Berlusconi's first, short-lived government in 1994 and is now a senator, was for many years one of his lawyers. Two years ago he was convicted of bribing judges in Rome to ensure that a takeover battle in which Mr Berlusconi was engaged before he entered politics was not stymied by the courts. He was found guilty and given an 11-year sentence, reduced to seven years on appeal.

Loyalty to his friends is one of Mr Berlusconi's most remarkable qualities. Many of his closest associates have been with him for decades. He has stood by figures such as Marcello dell'Utri, the founder of his party Forza Italia, who underwent a long trial in Sicily for Mafia association, and made no effort to distance himself when dell'Utri got a nine-year sentence last year.

Mr Berlusconi has gone to huge lengths to save Mr Previti from prison. He has induced his Justice Minister Roberto Castelli to force the "Save Previti Law" through parliament while other matters, including the chaos at the Bank of Italy, remain to be dealt with.

But this week the Court of Cassation spelt out what the new law, which cuts in half the time within which convictions for many different offences will be "prescribed" or struck down, will mean in practice.

The court believes that of 3,365 cases pending, as many as 1,652 may be killed if the Bill becomes law. They include cases of manslaughter, corruption, embezzlement and family abuse. Nearly 90 per cent of corruption cases before the court will be struck down. "We will be able to finish our work before lunch," was one judge's sardonic comment.

Rome's La Repubblica newspaper has been examining the consequences of the new law and reports that two of the trials involving excesses committed by riot police in Genoa are among those likely to be killed off by it.

Other notorious cases for which justice will now never be done include the collapse of a block of flats in Rome in 1998 in which 27 people died, four of them children. Two men have been convicted and sentenced, but thanks to the new law the convictions will die before they can be confirmed by Court of Cassation. A major case of corruption in the awarding of contracts for building Italy's high-speed railway, in which 30 people are charged, and the defrauding of 100 families in Rome, many of whom lost all their savings, in a housing scam, may also be affected.

Mr Castelli claimed that the data cited by opponents of the Bill was "untrustworthy", and insisted it was "a good law". But magistrates condemned it as "a permanent crypto-amnesty".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks