Italy’s highest court has begun considering Silvio Berlusconi’s final appeal against a tax fraud conviction that could end his political career and threaten the coalition’s survival.
The former prime minister’s lawyers believe the judges in Rome may not give their ruling until Wednesday night or even Thursday.
They have decided not to request a postponement until September although the court could order such a move independently.
Anti-Berlusconi protesters want to see his four-year jail term and five-year ban from office upheld.
One banner outside the Court of Cassation read: “No-one is more equal than others”.
One of the activists from a group called Popolo Viola (Purple People) still fears political influence:
“We are afraid of one thing – that if, as ought to happen, Berlusconi is convicted and thus barred from office, the problem won’t be legal, it will be political, because a Senate committee must decide if they approve banning Berlusconi from office or not,” said Gianfranco Mascia.
At the age of 76, Berlusconi is unlikely to go to jail. He denies the charges against him which he believes are politically motivated.
In May he was convicted of artificially inflating prices of TV distribution rights bought by his Mediaset company, to avoid taxes.
Italy’s fragile coalition government is seen as threatened because politicians from both the centre-left Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s centre-right PDL party may refuse to continue in government if he is convicted.
Euronews correspondent in Rome Enrico Bona said:
“The decision by Silvio Berlusconi’s lawyers not to ask for a delay shows they want a verdict as soon as possible to avoid wasting time. They’re betting on a ruling in the politician’s favour. We’ll have to wait until Wednesday or even Thursday to see whether or not that happens. In the meantime anything is possible”.