Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government has proposed
legislation that would give immunity to the country's top officials
while they are in office. The opposition says the bill, which would
still need to be approved by parliament, is aimed at protecting Mr.
Berlusconi from prosecution. For VOA, Sabina Castelfranco reports from
The immunity bill proposed by the government is a revised
version of a 2003 law which at the time briefly halted Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi's corruption trial before the Constitutional Court
ruled that the law was unconstitutional.
This time the bill is
likely to be approved swiftly by both houses of parliament, where the
ruling center-right government, has solid majorities. Cabinet members,
such as Justice Minister, Angelino Alfano, have also expressed the hope
that the opposition may not vote against the bill.
it is a proposal regulating the relations between Italy's top state
officials and the courts during the time they are in office and
therefore it should receive widespread parliamentary backing.
insisted that the legislation will allow top officials to carry out
their jobs without worries. Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa defended
the bill saying the new version takes into account all possible
La Russa complimented the justice minister saying he
had done a very through job to prepare a bill that cannot be criticized
for being unconstitutional.
The bill would effectively grant
immunity from prosecution for the Italian president, the prime minister
and the speakers of both houses of parliament. It would also freeze the
statute of limitations while the officials are in office.
members of the opposition were quick to criticize the cabinet's move
and said it was an effort to protect Berlusconi, who is currently a
defendant in a corruption trial in Milan.
Anna Finocchiaro of
the opposition Democratic Party said this bill should not be valid
until the next legislature because Italy would have in place a system
that creates laws for the personal interest of the prime minister. She
added that it would be less risk for Silvio Berlusconi to face his
Antonio di Pietro, a former magistrate, who is
one of Berluconi's fiercest critics, said his Italy of Values party
would put up the stiffest opposition to the immunity bill.
said members of his party would re-propose a referendum because
citizens must be given a say on whether it is right that those who
govern do not undergo trial if they are suspected of having being
involved in corruption.
Berlusconi, who has been dogged by
legal troubles for 15 years, has been in a long-standing confrontation
with the judiciary. The battle erupted again this week when the prime
minister said some magistrates were politically driven and called them
a cancer of democracy.