Italian Senate panel recommends Berlusconi expulsion

media captionThe senate panel's deliberations were broadcast live

A cross-party panel of the Italian Senate has recommended the expulsion from the chamber of Silvio Berlusconi over his conviction for tax fraud.

The call to expel the ex-premier who dominated politics for nearly two decades in Italy is expected to go before the Senate within three weeks.

Berlusconi threatened to topple the coalition government over the issue but backed down during a confidence vote.

He accused the Senate panel of bias and stayed away from its deliberations.

The media tycoon was convicted of tax fraud in October 2012 over deals his firm Mediaset made to purchase TV rights to US films. The sentence was upheld in August.

The threat to Prime Minister Enrico Letta's fragile coalition alarmed political leaders and markets alike in the eurozone, where Italy has the third-biggest economy and is struggling to address a huge national debt.

Weakened figure

Berlusconi dismissed the panel, which is dominated by his political opponents, as biased against him.

"There is no possibility of any defence and there is no reason to appear before a body which has already announced what decision it is going to take through the press," he said in a statement issued through his lawyers.

Representatives of both Prime Minister Letta's centre-left Democratic Party and Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party sit on the 23-strong Senate committee on elections and parliamentary immunity.

image captionSilvio Berlusconi threatened to bring down the government over the Senate vote
image captionSenators from Berlusconi's party are a minority on the Senate panel.

However, PdL members make up just over a quarter of the total.

Berlusconi emerged from Wednesday's confidence vote a weakened figure with his capacity to influence Italian politics diminished, the BBC's Alan Johnston reported.

Ousted from power in 2011, the 77-year-old billionaire nearly came back again earlier this year after an effective election campaign won him almost a third of the vote but legal troubles quickly beset him.

He will have to serve a one-year sentence for his tax conviction, probably under house arrest or via community service because of his age.

In addition, he has been convicted of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and of a breach of confidentiality over a police wiretap. He is appealing against both convictions.