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Italian court confirms two-year public office ban for Berlusconi

Italy's top appeals court has confirmed a two-year public office ban for former premier Silvio Berlusconi over a conviction for tax fraud. The ruling also means he cannot run as a candidate in EU elections this May.

Italy's highest appeals body, the Court of Cassation, upheld a two-year ban from public office for center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi late Tuesday.

The ruling is linked to the tax fraud conviction he was handed last October with a four-year prison sentence, which was commuted to one year. He was found guilty of fraudulent accounting at his family media firm, Mediaset.

Berlusconi's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini said he was "extremely disappointed" by the ruling.

The ruling also weakens the 77-year-old's hopes of running as a candidate in elections for the

European Parliament in May.

Tuesday's decision was not expected to have a huge impact as Berlusconi was already stripped of his seat as a senator in November. Berlusconi, however, has continued to lead his Forza Italia party - the largest parliamentary opposition to

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's

coalition government - from outside parliament.

Berlusconi has said he will appeal to Italy's constitutional court against the tax fraud verdict. He has also already appealed to the European Court of Human Rights against his expulsion from the Senate.

The scandal-prone politician is also fighting a seven-year jail sentence handed down last year for paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his office to cover it up.

The billionaire media tycoon has denied all wrongdoing and has said he is the victim of politically motivated prosecutors and judges.

hc/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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