October 19, 2009

Berlusconi's TV company filmed bribery case judge

The Telegraph
October 18, 2009

Days after Judge Raimondo Mesiano ordered the Italian prime minister's holding company to pay 750 million euros (£680 million) in damages to a rival, the media mogul's Canale 5 channel aired footage of the judge taking a walk, smoking and having a shave at the barber.

Dubbing the judge's behaviour "eccentric", a narrator pointed to him smoking his "umpteenth" cigarette, called his turquoise socks "strange" and said: "He's impatient ... he can only relax at the barber's."

The incident has further raised tensions between the Italian government and the judiciary, after Mr Berlusconi accused the constitutional court of being packed with Leftists when it stripped him of immunity from prosecution.

The court's action means that cases for alleged fraud and corruption linked to Mr Berlusconi's Mediaset business empire can proceed.

Furious that the judge was shadowed during his leisure time without his knowledge, the National Association of Magistrates asked the privacy authorities to intervene. The authorities said they were evaluating the matter.

"We don't think there are similar precedents in Italy, of denigrating a person and delegitimising an essential and delicate function," the association said in a statement.

Coupled with anger over Mr Berlusconi's remark on Friday that he wanted to modify the constitution on judicial issues, the magistrates' union on Saturday declared a "state of protest".

It also denounced a "climate of constant tension" that it said risked altering the balance among the powers of the state.

Mediaset, which owns Canale 5, responded angrily, saying it would not accept reprimands and that the clip showed a magistrate who "objectively has acquired national and international notoriety".

Some magistrates are debating a "turquoise socks" protest, while others have been collecting signatures for a letter of support for their colleague, Italian media reported.

Some Italian commentators and the centre-Left opposition were also outraged, with one Democratic Party senator likening the incident to a "horrible television movie".

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