Berlusconi clashes with "stupid" protesters as tensions rise
ROME (Reuters) - Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, facing trial on tax fraud and sex charges, abused protesters who whistled and jeered as he entered parliament on Saturday to vote in an election for speaker of the Senate.
"You should be ashamed, you're poor, stupid fools," he said loudly as he made his way into the Senate.
Wearing sunglasses after spending all week in hospital for eye problems, Berlusconi arrived for the final phase of the multi-round vote which is being closely watched as a pointer to the balance of power in parliament.
A few dozen protesters whistled and called out "Buffone! Buffone! (Clown)" as he made his entrance.
The 76-year-old media billionaire faces pressure over his legal problems with two trials this month as well as a separate investigation over accusations of political bribery in 2006.
On Saturday, judges granted a request to delay a hearing in his appeal against a four-year sentence for tax fraud connected with his Mediaset broadcasting empire because of the vote. The hearing will now go ahead next Saturday.
Berlusconi is also facing a separate trial in which he is charged with paying for sex with former nightclub dancer Karima el Mahroug, better known under her stage name "Ruby" when she was still a minor.
A verdict in that trial may come as early as March 25.
(Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by Stephen Powell)
Protesters respond to calls to defend their demonstration from possible police intervention. Slideshow