Film-maker Franco Zeffirelli backs Silvio Berlusconi's claims of conspiracy by left-wing magistrates

The mercurial director was twice made a senator under Italy's ex-premier

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The Independent Online

At least someone has come out in support of the humiliated ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, after his definitive conviction last week for tax fraud.

As Berlusconi rages over his approaching sentence of house arrest or community service, the film-maker Franco Zeffirelli has backed the mogul’s claims that he is the victim of a conspiracy by left-wing magistrates.

Zeffirelli, 90, joined Berlusconi at a centre-right gathering in Rome at the weekend to protest against the conviction. “I cried when he started to cry. We embraced each other, both emotional.” The mercurial director, who was twice made a senator under Berlusconi, added: “Silvio is right. We continue to live under an incorrigible left-wing dictatorship. He has to stay, without a shadow of a doubt. It’ll be terrible if we lose Silvio. He’s the last hope. The final guardian of true liberty.”

The new source of moral support might come as a surprise to Berlusconi. Three years ago, when the media tycoon was still in power, the director told The Independent he was disgusted with the government’s attitude to, and funding of, the arts, particularly opera. However, now he insists: “The real point of all this is to remove him from the political scene.”