Guardian.Thursday 8 October 2009
Silvio Berlusconi defiant as court
throws out immunity law
by John Hooper
Silvio Berlusconi vowed this morning to stay in office and govern with "even more grit" than before, after Italy's constitutional court threw out a law that gave him immunity from prosecution for as long as he remained prime minister.
In a morning radio interview, Berlusconi dismissed legal proceedings against him as "laughable" and "absurd" and said he would show his accusers what he was made of in court.
His defiance raised the prospect of a protracted political stand-off. Berlusconi's allies have already claimed that the decision by the country's top court represents a political plot to undermine the prime minister.
Berlusconi insisted he would not stand aside. "The government will forge ahead calmly, tranquilly and with even more grit than before because this will be absolutely indispensable for freedom and democracy in this country," he said.
"The two trials against me are false, laughable, absurd, and I will show this to Italians by going on television and I will defend myself in the courtroom and make my accusers look ridiculous and show everyone what stuff they are made of and what stuff I am made of."
Berlusconi faced a string of legal cases against his business interests when the law was brought in last year, and the constitutional court ruling raised the prospect of him becoming entangled once again in court proceedings instead of running the country.
Berlusconi, who is already struggling to contain the damage from a lurid sex and drugs scandal in which he is accused of using the services of prostitutes, has long claimed that he is the victim of a plot by leftwing judges and prosecutors. His supporters argued that the immunity bill was needed to protect him.
The court's decision marks the second time in five years that Italy's most august tribunal has rejected an attempt by the right to put its leader above the law.
The detailed reasoning behind the judges' decision will not be released for several weeks. But the statement said they had agreed that the immunity law violated not only article 3, which guarantees equality before the law, but also article 138, which sets out the procedure for a constitutional change.
The government will now have to decide whether to try again to furnish its leader with immunity by reforming the constitution. That requires either a popular referendum or a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament.
A trial in Milan in which Berlusconi is charged with tax evasion, suspended last year after parliament approved the immunity law, can now resume. Having passed the age of 70, however, the prime minister can no longer be jailed even if found guilty.
His resumed prosecution will nevertheless be an embarrassment at a time when his government is leading a high-profile campaign against tax dodgers, and offering an amnesty to Italians who have salted money abroad to avoid tax.
The judges' decision could also mean Berlusconi is again put on trial for allegedly bribing David Mills, the husband of the Olympics minister, Tessa Jowell. The British lawyer is due to launch an appeal today against a four-and-a-half year jail sentence for accepting $600,000 (£375,000) in return for skewing his testimony in two cases in which Berlusconi was a defendant in the 1990s.
The prime minister was scratched from the trial because of the immunity law, but the court ruled in May that he had given the bribe. The case against him would have to be started again and is likely to be "timed out" by a statute of limitations before the judges have a chance to reach a verdict.
A more important consequence of yesterday's decision will be to give a new relevance to two investigations in which Berlusconi is a suspect. Allegations are being investigated that he "bought" two MPs with the aim of bringing down Italy's last centre-left government, although charges are unlikely to be laid against him. In the second investigation, he is accused of embezzlement and tax evasion in both Italy and the US, and that case is thought likely to proceed.
Dario Franceschini, the leader of Italy's biggest opposition group, the Democratic party, said the constitutional court had re-established the principle of the equality of citizens before the law. "Everyone is equal before the law, even the powerful," he said.
The act that was ruled unconstitutional offered immunity from prosecution to the four top state officials: the president, the speakers of the two chambers of parliament and the prime minister.
The controversy over the role of the judiciary reached fever pitch after an announcement by a judge in Milan on Saturday that he had awarded damages of €750m (£690m) against Berlusconi's Fininvest group.
The company at the apex of the prime minister's business empire was told to pay damages to the CIR group as compensation for having bribed a judge to ensure it won a battle for control of the publishing group Mondadori. Berlusconi's lawyer was convicted of buying that judge two years ago.
In the recent ruling, Judge Raimondo Mesiano ruled that Italy's prime minister had been "jointly responsible" for the offence.
Clean Hands put pressure on prime minister
Nowhere have judges and prosecutors had such an impact on politics as in contemporary Italy. In the early 1990s, the country's political order was overthrown by a vast inquiry into party corruption known as the Clean Hands investigation. By the time the inquiry had run its course, the then Socialists' leader, Bettino Craxi, was a fugitive from justice and the Christian Democrat party, which had dominated government for almost 50 years, was in ruins.
The Clean Hands inquiry also marked the start of Silvio Berlusconi's legal problems. He has since been repeatedly charged with, but never convicted of, a string of alleged offences. Today's judgment will reignite a debate at the centre of Italian politics: whether, as Italy's prime minister claims, the judiciary's prominent role is a consequence of its infiltration by leftwingers after 1968, or, as his critics insist, a reflection of its much-needed independence in a society riddled with cronyism.
E’ politica la sentenza della Consulta ?
by Giovanni De Sio Cesari
Italianotizie, giovedì, ottobre 8, 2009
La sentenza di illegittimità sul cosi detto lodo Alfano, emessa della Corte Costituzionale è stata definita, a gran voce da Berlusconi e dai suoi sostenitori, “politica” mentre gli avversari affermano che è essa è conforme alla legge che ha semplicemente accertata: indubbiamente nessuno si aspettava reazioni diverse e le polemiche andranno avanti ancor non sappiamo per quanto tempo .
Ma al di là delle opposte passioni politiche, vediamo di chiarire la questione guardando al problema in generale
Spesso ci si immagina che il compito dei giudici sarebbe quello di applicare semplicemente quello che la legge prescrive: se fosse cosi semplice, tutti potrebbero fare da giudici perchè basterebbe leggere attentamente i codici. In realtà se una contesa va davanti al giudice è quasi sempre perche esse non può essere risolta in modo tanto semplice. Solo teoricamente si potrebbe impiantare una vertenza giudiziaria inequivocabilmente definibile con una norma di legge: nella realtà dei fatti invece vi sarà sempre un aspetto opinabile che il giudice sarà chiamato a risolvere. Pertanto il giudice interpreta sempre la legge nel caso particolare e quindi la sua sentenza non sarà mai una pedissequa applicazione di quanto scritto nella legge ma una sua personale interpretazione nella quale non può non confluire tutta la sua personalità e che può,infatti, essere contraddetta dalla valutazione di altro giudice.
Questo principio è più marcato quanto più si sale di grado: se per una determinata questione si arriva fino alla Cassazione è perche, in genere, i giudici hanno dato interpretazioni discordanti
Il problema si ritrova anche e soprattutto nelle decisioni della Corte Costituzionale: è prevista infatti che si possa adire ad essa solo se un giudice ritiene il sospetto di illegittimità “non manifestamente infondato”. cioè,in termini concreti, che è questione opinabile. La Corte quindi non può certo trovare la soluzione nella lettera nella Costituzione ma è chiamata a dare un suo parere. Nel caso del “ lodo Alfano!. in realtà, ambedue le tesi erano giustificabili alla luce della Costituzione tanto è vero che nella stessa Corte i pareri erano discordanti e si è deciso a maggioranza Il parere dato dalla maggioranza era condizionato dalle vedute cultuali e quindi anche politiche dei consiglieri? Difficile rispondere negativamente poichè le sole argomentazioni giuridiche non erano sufficienti a dirimere la questione
parlar anche di sentenza “ politica”. Tuttavia lo stesso discorso
può essere fatto anche per i consiglieri di minoranza, anche essi
influenzati dal proprio orientamento culturale: difficile dubitare
che se essi fossero stati in numero maggiore si avrebbe avuto una
sentenza opposta e che questa non avrebbe potuto essere allo stesso
modo considerata “politica”
Tuttavia nel nostro ordinamento, come in tutti gli ordinamenti democratici, sono previsti organi con una certa composizioni e con determinate funzioni: occorre accettare il loro ruolo cosi come previsto