Attorney strike may delay Berlusconi trial

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ROME -- A five-day attorney strike expected in mid-December will likely mean that the long-awaited trial of billionaire media mogul Silvio Berlusconi will be delayed until at least January, the media learned Monday.

Technically, the corruption trial against the 70-year-old former prime minister and 13 other defendants got underway Friday. Attorneys for Berlusconi and his co-defendants filed preliminary paperwork and the case was adjourned until Dec. 11, but that is the first day of planned five-day lawyer strike action. If the action is not averted, the case will start on the next open court date, Jan. 12.

While strikes are commonplace in Italy, such action by lawyers is unusual.

The case against Berlusconi has faced two previous delays: first when attorneys filed a motion to have the judge removed (the motion was denied) and then again after Berlusconi fainted at a political rally.

Berlusconi's lawyers are reportedly considering an appeal of the decision not to remove judge Edoardo D'Avossa. If the appeal is heard, it could delay the trial until after Jan. 12 anyway.

While no observers are alleging foul play with the series of postponements, the delays do work in Berlusconi's favor. If the court fails to reach a verdict by early 2008, the statute of limitations on some of the charges will expire.

Berlusconi has been hounded by legal troubles since the early 1990s but has never been convicted. In the past, several cases against him were overturned when the statute of limitations on the case expired.

Among Berlusconi's co-defendants are David Mills, a London-based lawyer and the ex-husband of British Culture Minister Tessa Jowell; producer Frank Agrama; and Fedele Gonfalonieri, president of Berlusconi-controlled broadcast giant Mediaset.

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