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Italian Lawmakers Reject Request to Search Prime MinisterÂ¿s House
Italian Lawmakers Reject Request to Search Prime Minister’s House
By A.M. Mufale
The Digest, Associate Editor
Milan prosecutors are being denied the right to search Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s property. In a vote of 315 to 298, the lower house of Italy’s Parliament voted against the request, denying prosecutors the right to search the offices used by Berlusconi’s accountant. The request was made as part of an ongoing investigation, which began last December, of charges that the Prime Minister paid to have sex with a minor.
The Parliamentary commission that has the power to authorize the search request ruled against it, saying that jurisdiction over the prime minister’s alleged crimes belongs to a special tribunal and not to Milanese prosecutors. Parliament, however, was still asked to make a decision and chose to reject the request, hindering the prosecution’s case.
As Prime Minister and a member of the lower house of Parliament, Berlusconi is entitled to partial immunity from prosecution. Prosecutors cannot search his property without Parliament’s consent. Shortly before prosecutors requested the search, however, Italy’s highest court stripped Berlusconi of his automatic immunity from prosecution. Nevertheless, parliament is still denying the search request.
The investigation began in December after Berlusconi himself called police and persuaded them to release a young woman who had been arrested for stealing. The woman, who is now over the age of 18, allegedly demanded 5 million euros from the Prime Minister not to tell, but wiretaps of the conversation leaked and Berlusconi is now facing criminal charges.
The Prime Minister has been linked sexually to a handful of other underage women. Berlusconi’s accountant, Guiseppe Spinelli, is being accused of giving the young women cash, jewelry and rent money on Berluscioni’s behalf in exchange for the alleged sexual favors. Berlusconi and his accountant are denying any wrongdoing.
The Italian Prime Minister has since been asked to relinquish his title. Pier Luigi Bersani, Democratic Party leader, posted a letter on the party’s website asking Berlusconi to step down and “free the country from an embarrassment that is no longer sustainable.”
For more information, please see:
CNN, “Italian lawmakers rule against search of prime minister's house,” 3, Feb. 2011
The New York Times, “Wiretaps of Berlusconi’s Teenage Friend Emerge,” 18, Jan. 2011