Italian Senate Debates Stripping Berlusconi Of His Seat

The former premier, who has been convicted of tax fraud and on a charge of paying for sex with an underage prostitute, has survived many other threats to his political power. But expulsion from the Senate could lift his immunity and open him up to arrest.

Click here for a Channel 4 webcast of Italian senators debating whether to expel former Premier Silvio Berlusconi from their ranks. A vote is expected later today. (The webcast's audio is not translated, but you don't have to understand Italian to get the gist.)

As we've reported, a Senate panel in October recommended stripping Berlusconi of his seat. The 77-year-old, the BBC reminds readers, has been:

-- "Convicted of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and of abuse of power for asking police to release her when she was arrested for theft; under appeal."

-- "Convicted of tax fraud in [a] case focusing on the purchase of the TV rights to US films by his company, Mediaset."

-- "Acquitted in several other cases; also convicted in several, only to be cleared on appeal; others expired under statute of limitations."

Earlier Wednesday, Reuters says, the never-shy Berlusconi told his supporters at a rally in Rome that this is "a bitter day, a day of mourning for Italian democracy." Reuters is live blogging and also has live video of the rally outside Berlusconi's home.

Berlusconi has survived many other threats to his political life. But the BBC notes that:

"Expulsion will be a blow to his prestige and a bitter reminder that he is a convicted criminal. More importantly, it will leave him open to the possibility of arrest in some of the ongoing trials against him as he loses the protection afforded to parliamentarians."

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