Berlusconi says arresting him would incite revolution in Italy

PARIS Thu Dec 12, 2013 4:18am EST

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reacts as he attends a rally to launch the ''Forza Silvio'' (Go Silvio) club in downtown Rome December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reacts as he attends a rally to launch the ''Forza Silvio'' (Go Silvio) club in downtown Rome December 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Yara Nardi

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PARIS (Reuters) - Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who lost parliamentary immunity when he was expelled from the Senate last month, said on Thursday revolution would break out if he were arrested and thrown in prison.

The 77-year-old media magnate was stripped of his Senate seat after he was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to four years in jail. This was commuted to a year, likely to be spent performing community service.

But without parliamentary protection, he is now more vulnerable in other criminal cases where he is accused of offences including political bribery. He is also appealing against a conviction for abuse of office and paying for sex with a minor.

In an interview with France's Europe 1 radio, when asked if he was afraid of arrest, he replied: "No, I'm sure they cannot, otherwise there will be a revolution in Italy."

The comment came during a chaotic week of protests and road blockages across Italy by a loose-knit movement led by farmers and truckers.

The so-called "pitchfork" movement is angry about the failure of the political class to address the country's grave economic problems, which have left the economy smaller than it was a decade ago and youth unemployment at about 40 percent.

After dominating Italian politics for two decades and being subjected to the humiliation of being booted out of the Senate, the billionaire politician has made it clear he will use all his resources to destabilize Prime Minister Enrico Letta's coalition government.

Berlusconi tried to bring down the government before being voted out of parliament, but instead split his own party, with the dissidents backing Letta to preserve political stability.

Letta pledged to keep Italy out of "chaos" on Wednesday, before winning two confidence votes without Berlusconi's support.

Berlusconi says Italian magistrates are politically biased against him and that they staged a "coup d'etat" and overturned the will of the people by convicting him of tax fraud.

(Reporting by Mark John, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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