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Italy high court upholds Berlusconi bribery acquittal

[JURIST] Italy's highest court of appeal, the Court of Cassation [official site, in Italian], upheld a verdict Friday clearing former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of charges that he bribed judges to prevent the sale of food company SME to rivals in 1985. Italian law allows both prosecutors and defendants to appeal twice against sentences. Friday's decision follows the same finding by a Milan appeals court [JURIST report] in April and is therefore is the final ruling in the case.

Berlusconi, Italy's richest man and owner of broadcaster Mediaset [Bloomberg profile], has faced trial on at least six occasions involving charges of false accounting, tax fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, and giving false testimony [JURIST report]. Berlusconi has continually maintained his innocence, accusing prosecutors of conducting a political vandetta against him. This trial was initially blocked in 2004 by a bill drafted by Berlusconi ally and later defense lawyer Gaetano Pecorella but went ahead after the bill was struck down as unconstitutional. DPA has more.

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