The Italian Senate has expelled Silvio Berlusconi over his tax fraud conviction.
The 77-year-old dominated Italian politics for two decades. Wednesday’s vote opens an uncertain new phase in Italian politics.
The Senate declared Berlusconi ineligible for parliament after he was convicted of masterminding a complex system of illegally inflated invoices to cut the tax bill for his Mediaset television empire.
Under a law passed with Berlusconi’s support last year, politicians convicted of serious criminal offences are ineligible for parliament, but his expulsion had to be confirmed by a full vote in the Senate.
The court sentenced him to four years in jail, commuted to a year likely to be spent performing community service. He was also banned from holding public office for two years, preventing any immediate return to government.
As the Senate voted, Berlusconi addressed several thousand supporters of his Forza Italia party in front of his residence in central Rome:
“It’s a day of mourning for the law. None of us can feel secure about our rights, our property, our freedom. So we have to stay in the field. Even from outside parliament we can continue to fight for our freedom,” said Berlusconi.
Stripped of his parliamentary immunity from arrest, Berlusconi is now more vulnerable in a series of other cases, where he is accused of offences including political bribery and paying for sex with an underage prostitute.
Berlusconi is still an influential figure and vowed to continue leading his party and fight on.