MILAN Feb 1 A Milan court on Friday rejected a
new request from Silvio Berlusconi's lawyers to suspend a tax
fraud trial involving the purchase of broadcasting rights by his
Mediaset media group until after the Feb. 24-25
The decision prompted a defiant response from the former
prime minister and his centre-right party, who described as
"scandalous" what they see as an interference with the
"It hurts my heart to see how much money is spent on
laughable issues," Berlusconi said at a news conference in Rome
referring to the court's work, brandishing a timetable of court
hearings he said were designed to stop him campaigning.
The 76-year-old media tycoon, who has served four times as
prime minister, is appealing against a previous court ruling in
the case which in October sentenced him to four years in jail.
Berlusconi, who has surged in opinion polls but lags the
centre-left Democratic Party, is also facing a trial on charges
of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and a third for
alleged leaking of a confidential phone call to the media.
No verdicts are expected soon, but prosecutors may seek a
sentence in these trials days before the vote.
Berlusconi has made an astonishing comeback over the last
month through a blitz of radio and television appearances.
He is leading a centre-right coalition polling 27.8 percent
against a centre-left coalition on 32.8 percent.
The tax fraud trial will continue on Feb. 8.
(Reporting by Manuela D'Alessandro; Editing by Stephen Powell)