An Italian court has handed former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi a two-year ban on holding public office following his conviction for tax fraud. However, the Senate must first approve his expulsion.
Saturday's ruling by the court in Milan could mean that Berlusconi is barred from taking part in parliament or elections for two years.
As Berlusconi is a senator, the court's decision will have no immediate effect. His expulsion from the Senate depends on a separate vote there expected to take place next month.
The upper house, which is dominated by his opponents, seems likely to vote to strip him of his seat. Under separate Senate rules, the upper house is able to ban Berlusconi from public office for six years, thus override Saturday's court ruling.
The scandal-ridden ex-premier, who has been definitively convicted of tax fraud, can appeal Saturday's ruling.
Italy's supreme court upheld the tax fraud conviction against Berlusconi on August 1, rejecting his final appeal against an earlier four-year jail sentence. The four-year sentence was commuted to one year, and, if he is expelled by the Senate, he will spend this year either under house arrest or in community service because of his age.
If he loses his Senate seat, the 77-year-old billionaire will also be deprived of his parliamentary immunity from arrest, laying him open to more legal action as he fights a separate conviction for paying for sex with a minor, among other cases.
Berlusconi, a media tycoon, has faced dozens of previous trials on charges ranging from tax to sex offenses during his 20-year political career.
tj/ccp (Reuters, AFP)