[JURIST] Milan judges presiding over the tax fraud trial of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] suspended the trial Monday while consulting [ASCA report, in Italian] with a Constitutional Court [official website] on the legitimacy of a new law that Berlusconi has invoked to postpone criminal proceedings against him for 18 months. The case is the second to be suspended this month, with the corruption trial postponed [AFP report] last Friday. The law in question was passed [JURIST report] in March and allows cabinet officials to postpone criminal proceedings against them for up to 18 months if the charges constitute a "legitimate impediment" to performing public duties. The judges are questioning [ANSA report, in Italian] whether the new law violates the Italian Constitution [text] because it improperly creates a new faculty for cabinet members through a law rather than by constitutional amendment, and because it alters the equality of citizens under the law. Berlusconi maintains that the proceedings are politically motivated.
Earlier this month, Italian prosecutors sought to indict [JURIST report] Berlusconi on additional fraud and embezzlement charges [JURIST report] involving his media company Mediatrade, despite a new law granting the executive temporary immunity. In January, hundreds of Italy's judges walked out of their courtrooms to protest the passage of a law that placed strict time limits [JURIST reports] on the trial and appeals process. The law was criticized for being tailored for Berlusconi's benefit.