High Noon for Berlusconi and the Magistrates Judges A 'High Noon' Showdown for Berlusconi

By Rome, Andrew Gumbel | The Independent (London, England), October 16, 1995 | Go to article overview
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High Noon for Berlusconi and the Magistrates Judges A 'High Noon' Showdown for Berlusconi


Rome, Andrew Gumbel, The Independent (London, England)


There was a touch of High Noon in the announcement at the weekend that Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, is to stand trial on corruption charges. Starting on 17 January, the Milan criminal courts will be the venue for a final showdown pitting the media magnate- turned-politician against the magistrates whose investigations have derailed and possibly wrecked his ambitions to run the country.

To hear Mr Berlusconi talk, he sees himself as a lone sheriff preparing to do battle with the forces of evil - his argument being that the magistrates have a specific political agenda to destroy him. As far as the magistrates are concerned, they are out to establish not only Mr Berlusconi's guilt or innocence, but their credibility as dispassionate upholders of the law.

One thing is clear: the conflict has become so heated that only one side can hope to come out of the showdown alive. The issue has grown far beyond the basic judicial debate of whether Mr Berlusconi colluded in the bribing of a few tax inspectors in exchange for an easy audit of his Fininvest business empire.

At stake is the soul of Italy as it struggles to throw off the corrupted politics of the past and create a new, healthy democratic system.

Much has changed since Mr Berlusconi rose to power in the general elections of March 1994. At that time the judiciary were considered heroes for sweeping away the old system.

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