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Justice

Former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi ordered to do community service

An Italian court has ordered former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to do a year of community service after he was found guilty of tax fraud. The 77-year-old has been spared going to prison due to his advanced age.

Italian media reported on Tuesday that a Milan court had agreed to a request from the former prime minister's defense team to allow Silvio Berlusconi to serve his sentence through community service. Defense lawyers had formally made the request at a hearing last Thursday and the prosecution supported the proposal.

The former premier is to work at a home for the elderly for "one day a week and for not less than four hours," Judge Pasquale Nobile De Santis said in his ruling reported by Italian media.

Berlusconi had originally been sentenced to four years in jail after being convicted of tax fraud related to the purchase of television distribution rights by his Mediaset business empire in the 1990s. The sentence was subsequently commuted to one year.

Berlusconi's legal team expressed satisfaction at the ruling, as community service is less restrictive than the alternative, which would have been house arrest.

"The decision of the Milan court appears to be balanced and satisfactory with regards to Berlusconi's political activity needs," a statement released by his lawyers, Franco Coppi and Niccolo Ghedini said.

The political activity that they referred to is understood to mean campaigning for Berlusconi's Forza Italia party ahead of the European Parliamentary election to be held on May 25.

This is about as politically involved as Berlusconi, who was expelled from the Italian parliament over his tax fraud conviction can become, as he was also banned from running for public office.

pfd/mz (AFP, Reuters)

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