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You can't try me, key defendant tells Italy tribunal

Written by: Staff
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ROME, July 4 (Reuters) The first day of questioning in Italy's biggest soccer trial began today with one of the most high-profile defendants arguing he should play no further part in proceedings.

The lawyer representing former Italian Football Federation (FIGC) official Paolo Bergamo announced that his client had surrendered his membership of the FIGC and was not therefore liable to be tried by the sports tribunal.

Bergamo used to conduct the draw that assigned referees to Serie A matches.

''This morning Bergamo has taken the difficult decision to resign from the FIGC after 40 years of activity,'' said Gaetano Scalise.

Scalise criticised the tribunal's decision to allow intercepted telephone calls to be used as evidence and attacked the ''media circus'' around the trial.

Bergamo has been at the heart of the scandal since telephone intercepts revealed him discussing refereeing appointments with former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi during the 2004-05 season.

Four clubs -- champions Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio -- as well as 26 officials face charges of sporting fraud and unfair conduct at the trial in Rome's Olympic Stadium.

Clubs risk being thrown out of the top Serie A league and European competition if found guilty of conspiring with referees to rig matches. Individuals face bans.

The trial began last Thursday but was quickly adjourned.

Proceedings resumed on Monday but that day was also taken up with objections from defence lawyers and no defendants or witnesses were questioned.

The tribunal has said it aims to deliver its verdicts on July 10, the day after the World Cup final in Berlin.

All the accused have denied wrongdoing. Those found guilty can appeal, but the appeals process must be finished by July 27 -- the deadline set by UEFA for the FIGC to submit the list of teams for next season's Champions League and UEFA Cup competition.

REUTERS PDS PC1656

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