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Italian Senate panel recommends Berlusconi expulsion

A Senate committee in Italy has recommended that Silvio Berlusconi be expelled from parliament following his tax fraud conviction in August. This recommendation, however, still requires approval at a Senate vote.

A cross-party panel of Italian senators on Friday approved a motion to expel former premier Silvio Berlusconi from parliament. The move follows Berlusconi's failed appeal against a tax fraud conviction, with the verdict upheld by Italy's highest court in August.

The committee "has decided by a majority to propose to the Senate assembly to debate invalidating the election of Senator Berlusconi," the group's head, Dario Stefano, said.

A recently-introduced Italian law forbids people with a conviction from holding public office. Berlusconi and his supporters have argued that this should not apply to him, however, because the charges against him pertain to events that pre-date the law.

The committee's recommendation is not binding, and will face a vote in the Senate. Berlusconi's center-right alliance, the People of Freedom (PdL), holds just under one-third of the seats in the upper house of parliament. The PdL is Italy's second-most powerful political group, behind Prime Minister Enrico Letta's center-left Democratic Party (PD).

Berlusconi was sentenced in August to one year of either house arrest or community service. He is currently battling other cases in court.

msh/tj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)