Berlusconi to duck corruption trial by claiming he is too busy to attend hearing

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London, Mar. 12 (ANI): Italian parliament has provided a new escape route to corruption-accused Silvio Berlusconi by passing a new law that allows the Prime Minister to claim he is too busy to attend a court trial.

The law will allow Berlusconi to avoid court hearings by arguing that he has a "legitimate impediment" - for instance a Cabinet meeting or some other official engagement, The Telegraph reports.

Earlier, Berlusconi had used a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a stretch of new motorway as an excuse for not turning up at court.

On Wednesday, the Italian Senate, the upper house of parliament, voted in favour of the law that will allow trials involving the billionaire prime minister to be suspended for up to 18 months.

Opposition MPs shouted "Shame! Shame!" while others held up copies of the Italian constitution, accusing Berlusconi of trampling the principle that all citizens are equal before the law, the paper says.

The law, which will also apply to ministers in the centre-Right government, will enable the media tycoon to string out the judicial process until both trials expire under Italy's statute of limitations, it adds.

President Giorgio Napolitano is likely to approve the law despite opposition leader Antonio Di Pietro appealing to the president to "open your eyes and block this destroyer of legality."

Berlusconi is accused of paying Mills, his one-time tax adviser, a 370,000 pounds bribe in exchange for the British businessman providing false testimony in two trials in the 1990s.

The three-times prime minister, 73, is also on trial on charges of tax fraud and false accounting involving one of his companies, Mediaset. (ANI)

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