Berlusconi's last stand in bribes case before immunity law shield is raised

Italy's prime minister told a court yesterday that he is the victim of enemies who lie constantly and have thrown mud at him for seven years.

It was only the second time that Silvio Berlusconi has addressed the court in Milan, where he has been on trial for the past three years accused of trying to bribe judges.

It is also likely to be his last court appearance for some time. The Italian parliament is expected to approve a new immunity law this week that will freeze the various court actions against him for as long as he remains in office.

Forced to show up in court for fear that if he did not the prosecutors might persuade the judges to move briskly to summing-up and verdict, Mr Berlusconi took a leaf out of George Orwell's Animal Farm where Orwell has the ruling pigs declare: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

He told the judges: "It's true that the law is equal for all. But for me it is more equal because the majority of Italians voted for me ... A court cannot trespass on the prerogatives of a head of government. This is unacceptable."

But the president of the court, Luisa Ponti, spat back: "We have applied the law. Please restrict your comments to the charges against you."

Mr Berlusconi demanded: "What evidence, what witness statements are there against me? There is not - I repeat, I want to say this strongly - a piece of evidence, an accusation, a document. And there is no motive ... For seven years I, who have institutional responsibilities, have been pelted with mud.

"I wonder how the money of Italians can be spent setting up a trial that is based exclusively on inventions," he said.

Mr Berlusconi, a billionaire media magnate who entered politics in 1992, is accused of bribing judges in the mid-1980s to persuade them to allow his company to buy SME, a state-owned food conglomerate that was up for privatisation. He has always maintained that the charges were cooked up by his political and business enemies.

In his previous appearance before the court, Mr Berlusconi argued that he had tried to buy the company as an act of public service. Yesterday, he claimed that the reason he had had to endure "seven years of mud" was because his old business foe Carlo De Benedetti, whose lower bid for SME Mr Berlusconi's offer was designed to thwart, was an incorrigible liar. "It is the habit of De Benedetti to say what is not the truth," he claimed. "He can say many things but I cannot do the same because of my institutional role."

The new immunity law is being rushed through before Italy assumes the European Union's rotating six-month presidency, in less than two weeks' time.

ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Life and Style
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Community / Stakeholder Manager - Solar PV

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Senior Marketing Executive (B2B/B2C) - London

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

C# .Net Developer

£23000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: C# .Net Develop re...

Electronics Design Engineer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: My client are l...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor