Take 5: Berlusconi trial set to restart


ROME -- The much-heralded corruption trial of Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi is set to restart Tuesda after a series of delays.

Though the former Italian prime minister and his co-defendants are not expected to appear in court during the first few sessions of the trial, the case is nonetheless significant because it could be the first time Berlusconi has been forced to face a judge to answer charges of criminal wrongdoing.

Berlusconi has been charged with crimes on numerous occasions in the past, but has thus far avoided conviction, usually on technicalities or because of expiring statutes of limitations.

The latest case alleges that Berlusconi paid British lawyer David Mills -- the estranged husband of British Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell -- some $800,000 to withhold information in connection with a previous trial.

The trial has so far been delayed four times: twice to hear a motion to have the judge thrown out, once because of Berlusconi's ongoing health issues and once because of a lawyer's strike in Italy. The delays are significant, because the statute of limitations on the core aspects of the state's case start expiring in November, and it is likely that the case will have to be thrown out if it runs into 2008.

If Berlusconi -- who controls Italy's giant Mediaset broadcaster along with Medusa studios, Mondadori publishers and a host of other media ventures -- is found guilty, he could face as many as eight years in prison.

Berlusconi has steadfastly maintained his innocence.