15 Jan 2011

Court rules Berlusconi trial law partially invalid

6:01 am on 15 January 2011

The Constitutional Court in Italy has ruled that a law which protects Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from prosecution for corruption and fraud, is partially invalid.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the court ruled that the law, which allows cabinet ministers to claim exemption from going to court because of their official duties, was not consistent in key points with the constitution.

The 15 judges ruled that it would be up to individual trial judges to decide on a case-by-case basis whether ministers would have to face charges.

The ruling had been sought by judges in Milan, where Mr Berlusconi, 74, faces three trials connected with his Mediaset broadcasting empire.

The prime minister is battling to shore up his government after scraping through a no-confidence vote last month.

Mr Berlusconi rejects the charges against him and says he is being targeted unfairly by politically motivated judges.

"There is no danger to the stability of the government, whatever the outcome of the constitutional court's decision," he said on Wednesday.