The fate of Italy’s ruling coalition government is in the balance after the country’s highest court upheld Silvio Berlusconi’s four-year prison sentence for tax fraud.
The former prime minister’s Freedom People (PdL) party, which he leads, forms part of the coalition.
From his residence in Rome, Berlusconi remained defiant, saying he had been wronged by Italy’s justice system.
“In exchange for my commitment over the course of nearly 20 years for my country, now almost at the end of my political life, I receive as a reward – allegations and a judgement based on nothing at all. It even takes away my personal freedom and political rights,” Berlusconi said.
In reality Berlusconi is only likely to serve one year as house arrest or doing community service.
Another court will determine how long his ban from public office will be, meaning that for now the 76-year-old can continue as senator and leader of his party.
Berlusconi has made it clear that he wants his People of Freedom party to become a revamped Forza Italia, the party with which he entered politics in 1994.
Euronews correspondent in Rome, Enrico Bona, said: “Silvio Berlusconi has retraced the latest 20 years of history of the Italian Republic and he has proposed the re-foundation of Forza Italia as an antidote to what he calls the distortion of justice. We will see if his call has the same force as in ’94.”