Media, public allowed at Berlusconi trial

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ROME -- Italian magistrates said Friday that they had no plans to bar the public or media from the graft and corruption trial of three-time Italian prime minister and billionaire media mogul Silvio Berlusconi when his trial restarts in late October.

But a ruling last week to bar the public and the media in the U.K., where Berlusconi and British attorney David Mills also are being tried, was a blow to Italian prosecutors, who wanted to use information from the London trial in Italy. Now that evidence in London will be given behind closed doors -- to avoid a "media circus" -- that evidence will be inadmissible in Italy.

The case against Berlusconi alleges that the owner of Italian broadcaster Mediaset paid Mills nearly $1 million to convince him to lie in court in a case involving film royalties and fees. The restart date for the Berlusconi-Mills trial has been set for Oct. 26.

Although the media and some members of the public have been allowed to attend the Italian trial, television cameras have been barred from the courtroom since March.

The trial, which started last year, has already been delayed a half-dozen times, and it risks seeing some of the charges related to the state's case against Berlusconi be declared out of line because of statute of limitations rules if it extends deep into 2008. It is thought that an injunction to bar all outsiders from the court could delay the restart date and increases chances that the trial could last too long.

Berlusconi has strenuously denied any wrongdoing in this case, blaming the case against him on political maneuvering from allies of current Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who defeated Berlusconi in a razor-thin vote 18 months ago.
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