Italy's upper house of parliament has approved legislation which effectively grants judicial immunity to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. This means that his trial in Milan on charges of bribing judges to further his business interests could be blocked indefinitely. This report from David Willey.
The five leading public office holders in Italy including the prime minister, the president, the speakers of both houses of parliament and the chief justice will be able to claim immunity from prosecution under the new law which still has to be passed by the lower chamber, but as Silvio Berlusconi has a clear majority in both houses of parliament, this will be something of a formality.
Mr Berlusconi has re-introduced immunity from prosecution for leading politicians after his lawyers failed to get him off the hook in an ongoing corruption trial in Milan. The new immunity law is eventually expected to be extended to include all members of parliament.
Until ten years ago a similar blanket protection from prosecution for Italian politicians was in force. This was revoked after the scandals of the clean hands bribery scandal which caused a political earthquake at the time in a country where it had become the norm for businessmen to bribe politicians, but now it is back to square one.