Oct. 26- Italians cheered the news that former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to nearly four years in jail on charges of tax fraud by a Milan court. Deborah Gembara reports.
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Days after announcing he's not running for office, Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to three years and eight months in jail by a Milan court for tax fraud.
In Rome, members of an anti-Berlusconi movement announced the news to passerbys --- shouting Berlusconi is a criminal and then toasted with champagne.
SOUNDBITE: Gianfranco Mascia, founder of the anti-Berlusconi movement 'the Purple People' saying (Italian):
"Yesterday he said he will not run as prime minister because he knew he would be sentenced. Because he knew he was guilty. Now we can shout, with no fear of being cited for defamation, that Berlusconi is a criminal."
SOUNDBITE: Marisa Strazzeri saying (Italian):
"We all expected it, didn't we? We expected it. I welcome the news."
SOUNDBITE: Anna Spada saying (Italian):
"I think it's a positive thing. For all of us in this country that is going to ruin."
SOUNDBITE: Diego Mostacciuola saying (Italian):
"He has done a great deal of good for humanity but, unfortunately, his problem is that the judges have always hated him and gone for him."
The tax fraud conviction is in connection with Berlusconi'st television company, Mediaset. The court's written ruling said Berlusconi shows a"natural capacity for cime."
He's been convicted three times during the nineties before being cleared by higher courts. He'll also have the chance to appeal. He's also accused of paying for for sex with a teenager - a charge he denies.
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