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Berlusconi jail term ‘marks end of era’

Published: October 27, 2012 | 10:18 am
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ROME — Italian newspapers splashed the news of ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s jail sentence for tax fraud across their front pages Saturday, heralding the end of an era dominated by the man one anti-Berlusconi paper called a “natural-born delinquent”.
“The mirages and alibis are finished,” said La Stampa. “An entire generation of Italians born after 1975 will for the first time vote in elections next spring that are not a pro- or anti-Berlusconi referendum.”
Berlusconi, 76, had already announced last week he would not stand in next year’s elections, but his sentencing Friday to four years in jail — quickly reduced to one under an amnesty law designed to reduce overcrowding in prisons — put an emphatic punctuation mark on the end of his domination of the Italian political scene.
“And so ends a Titanic affair, born in television and finished in court, with a clear, very tough and above all insulting punishment,” wrote the editor of the centre-left daily La Repubblica, Ezio Mauro, saying the case highlighted Berlusconi’s fall from grace.
Left-leaning daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, which had waged war on Berlusconi’s government during his three stints as prime minister between 1994 and 2011, said the media tycoon had a “natural capacity for delinquency”.
The verdict “is the proof that Italy was governed for nine years by a tax cheat,” said the paper.
During the trial, Berlusconi was accused of artificially inflating the price of distribution rights bought by his Mediaset empire and creating foreign slush funds to avoid paying taxes in Italy.
Scandal-hit Berlusconi condemned his sentence as “intolerable judicial harassment”.
The disgraced ex-premier looked alternately distraught and defiant in front-page photos. In some shots he wearily pressed a hand to his eye or stared sullenly into space; in others he raised his hands in a protestation of innocence or briskly straightened the lapels of his suit.
Some papers stuck strictly to the facts.
The country’s main newspaper, the centre-right Corriere della Sera, said only “Berlusconi convicted” in its headline, and did not run an editorial on the sentence.
Berlusconi’s lawyers have said they will appeal by November 10. Italy’s lengthy appeals process will likely ensure he never sees the inside of a jail cell.

AFP

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