Italy PM Letta rejects Berlusconi attack on judges

ROME Thu Sep 19, 2013 7:11am EDT

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta arrives at the construction site of Expo 2015, on the outskirts of Milan, September 13, 2013. REUTERS/ Stefano Rellandini

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta arrives at the construction site of Expo 2015, on the outskirts of Milan, September 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/ Stefano Rellandini

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ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta on Thursday dismissed Silvio Berlusconi's attacks on judges who convicted him of tax fraud and said he would not allow his fragile coalition government to become the "punching ball" of his fractious coalition partners.

Letta's comments, following weeks of mounting political tensions, came a day after Berlusconi made a bitter attack on what he said were politically biased judges who have sentenced him to imprisonment over a massive tax fraud scheme at his Mediaset television empire.

"Italy has a functioning state of law. There is no persecution in Italy," Letta told a news conference on attracting foreign investment. "In Italy, we respect the independence of the justice system and the work of the magistrates," he said.

(Reporting By James Mackenzie)

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