Berlusconi trial may be forced to restart


ROME -- A technical issue related to the corruption trial of Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi could force the six-month-old trial to restart, according to legal experts and Italian media reports.

Lawyers for Berlusconi -- a three-time prime minister -- filed a motion over the weekend to have the Friday restart date for the much-heralded trial canceled and for the state to have to start building its case against him again from scratch. The motion, which was officially released Monday by the Milan court trying the case, alleges that the notification process used for several procedures for the trial was in error and that the case should be thrown out as a result.

"There is no way it would be fair for this trial to continue," Gaetano Pecorella, one of Berlusconi's two leading attorneys, said in a statement.

The trial has already been delayed four times -- twice to consider motions to have the judge removed, once because of a lawyer strike and once because of Berlusconi's health problems -- and at least one other motion that could have delayed the trial by moving it to another city was dismissed.

Several Italian media outlets dismissed the motion as another delaying tactic. But legal experts said this motion could succeed.

"These cases have to follow the letter of the law, and if they fail to do that then, yes, a delay or retrial is a real possibility," Giancarlo Rey -- a partner with the legal group Sardo, Rey e Associati, a firm not associated with the trial -- said in an interview.

At the very least, the Friday restart date could be pushed back as the courts consider the motion, the Italian media said.

If the trial -- which alleges that Berlusconi paid British lawyer David Mills $800,000 to lie for him in court -- is delayed significantly, it could collapse, as the statute of limitations for many of the core charges in the case expire at the end of the year.

Both Berlusconi and Mills have vigorously denied any wrongdoing.