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Italy's Former PM Berlusconi Given One-Year Jail Sentence

Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi speaks to reporters after a hearing in his Mediaset appeals trial, at Milan's court, Italy, Mar. 1, 2013.
Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to one year in jail over a leaked wiretap. Berlusconi is unlikely to serve time over this case but his legal woes are from over.

Silvio Berlusconi is accused of arranging for the illegal wiretap of a political rival and having the transcript, which related to a banking scandal, leaked to a newspaper published by his brother.

Berlusconi has denied the charges and said in a statement Thursday that he was being persecuted by Italy’s judicial system.

Jonathan Hopkin from the London School of Economics says it’s unlikely Berlusconi will serve time. He says the former Italian prime minister has two chances to appeal Thursday’s decision.

“A very well resourced 'accusee' such as Berlusconi who is able to pay the best lawyers in the land has very good chances of overturning any convictions,” said Hopkin.

But he says Berlusconi’s legal concerns continue. Italy’s former leader is appealing a tax-fraud conviction and also faces charges of having sex with an underage prostitute. Hopkin says the charges have tarnished Berlusconi’s political image in Italy.

Silvio Berlusconi resigned as prime minister in 2011 but ran again in Italy's recent inconclusive elections. His People of Freedom party came in second.

But Jonathan Hopkin says that relative success conceals the fact that Berlusconi’s party lost a huge number of votes compared to the last election in 2008.

He says that is largely due to the economic situation. But he says Berlusconi’s legal challenges in a case involving an underage prostitute, Karima El Mahroug, known by her stage name "Ruby the Heartstealer," shocked many Italians.

“I think among all the judicial investigations he's faced over the years I think the 'Rubygate Scandal' touched a nerve with especially older voters. Especially practicing Catholics were particularly upset by that particular accusation - much more than they would be over accusations of tax evasion or bribery,” said Hopkin.

Berlusconi is expected to remain free during the appeals process of the wiretap case.