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Berlusconi's political opponents celebrate

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Berlusconi's political opponents celebrate
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Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been convicted of tax fraud by a court in Milan.

The 76-year-old was ordered to serve four years in prison, which was then reduced to 12 months a few hours later, in a case linked to his TV company Mediaset.

Shortly after the conviction, several political opponents took to the streets of Rome, cracking open bottles of champagne to celebrate.

“Now we can shout, with no fear of being cited for defamation that Berlusconi is a criminal,” said Gianfranco Mascia, the founder of an anti-Berlusconi group.

The so-called team of ‘Purple People’ has been very critical of his record, particularly the scandals that beset his last term in office.

But Italian public opinion about the ruling appears divided.

“My feeling is that, being a preliminary verdict, we’ll have to wait to see if Berlusconi will be acquitted after appeal, as has often happened before,” said Rome resident Roberto Alatri.

Another man, Diego Mostacciuloa, was supportive of the country’s former leader: “He has done a great deal of good for humanity but, unfortunately, his problem is that judges have always hated him and gone after him. Good luck President!”

As well as two appeals, the billionaire can return to his mansion just outside Milan knowing that Italian judges hardly ever incarcerate anyone over 70 years old.