Italy government 'must forge ahead': Berlusconi

AFP, Sunday 4 Aug 2013

Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi said Sunday the government "must forge ahead" amid high tension on the political scene after he was handed his first definitive conviction by the country's highest court.

"We have said clearly and directly that the government must forge ahead," the right-wing leader told more than 1,000 sympathisers gathered in front of his Rome mansion.

"The government must continue to take economic measures and we have said clearly and directly that the parliament must forge ahead to vote for these economic measures," Berlusconi went on.

The demonstration of support was organised by the playboy tycoon's People of Freedom (PDL) party, with the slogan "Sunday in the street for democracy and freedom."

The PDL said on its website the gathering "will be the occasion to huddle around our leader and confirm with him the great strength and the great determination of a people who do not know hatred and who really believe in freedom and democracy."

A visibly moved Berlusconi told the supporters: "Your closeness and your warmth comfort me after all the pain and suffering of the past few days."

Italy's top court on Thursday handed Berlusconi his first definitive conviction in a 20-year political career dogged by legal woes and sex scandals.

The court ordered the three-time premier to do a year of community service or be placed under house arrest -- a sentence due to be enacted in October.

He is also barred from running in elections for six years and the police on Friday withdrew his passport to prevent him from leaving the country.

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