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Italian premier cleared of charges

MILAN, Italy – A Milan court on Friday acquitted Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi of corruption charges – a major victory in the billionaire’s decade-long battle with legal woes that he has blamed on left-wing prosecutors.

More than 24 hours after the case went to the three-judge jury, Judge Francesco Castellano read the verdict to the court: acquittal on one count and a ruling that the statute of limitations had run out on the second corruption charge.

In a written statement issued by the premier’s office in Rome, Berlusconi welcomed the verdict as “better late than never. I was calm because I was fully aware of not having done anything wrong.”

There was no immediate reaction from the prosecutors, who had asked the court to convict the premier on both counts and sentence him to total of eight years in prison. Each corruption charge could have brought a sentence of one to five years.

“This closes 10 years of trials,” said Niccolo Ghedini, one of Berlusconi’s defense attorneys.

Berlusconi was the first sitting Italian premier to risk being convicted on criminal charges.


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