Berlusconi's scarlet fever gives way to red mist

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The Independent Online

Most people who contract a serious illness take to their beds and try to sleep it off – but not Silvio Berlusconi.

The Italian Prime Minister, suffering from a case of scarlet fever, was so incensed by a political talk show earlier this week that he shrugged off his condition to phone in and register his disgust.

The item that roused the premier's ire was a discussion of his legal troubles on the Ballarò talk show on Tuesday night. Berlusconi, whose relations with the Italian media have long been bombastic, made the surprise call to let rip at the "communist judges" who had hours earlier upheld a conviction against British lawyer David Mills for accepting a $600,000 (£365,000) bribe to lie in court on his behalf.

The tirade, greeted by a mixture of boos and cheers by the studio audience, was remarkable even by Berlusconi's standards. After a rant at the judges, the sickly premier launching a further spectacular diatribe against the show and RAI state television, which produces it.

"The anomaly in Italy is not Silvio Berlusconi," he said, "but the communist prosecutors and communist judges of Milan who have attacked Berlusconi in every way possible."

But despite his intervention, the Prime Minister's legal troubles look unlikely to go away. Now the Constitutional Court has stripped him of his immunity from prosecution, he faces prosecution over his alleged role in the Mills bribery affair – and another unrelated corruption trial is due to resume on 16 November.