Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday slammed the judges who convicted him on tax evasion charges and announced he would remain in politics to change the judiciary while not running as prime minister in next year's elections.
In a series of remarks comparable to those of a candidate on the campaign trail, Berlusconi also criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel and his Italian successor, Mario Monti, for imposing austerity measures in the wake of the eurozone debt crisis.
"There will be consequences," Berlusconi told one of his Mediaset television channels when talking about Friday's verdict, in which he was handed a four-year prison sentence and barred from holding public office for five years. Berlusconi will not serve his sentence until an appeals court has heard the case.
At a press conference near his villa in Milan later in the day, Berlusconi also confirmed his decision to stay in politics, but "not to present myself as a candidate for prime minister" in elections expected to be held in April.
"I feel obliged to place above everything a reform of the justice system so that what happened to me will not happen to others," he said.
He went on to criticize Monti's technocratic government for introducing measures that will "lead the economy into a recessionary spiral" and alleged that Italians are "scared" by the state's "violent way of treating taxpayers."
His centre-right People of Freedom party was currently considering whether to withdraw its support for Monti's government, he said. In the next election campaign, his party would try to unite the country's conservative forces around demands for tax cuts and a permanent end to tax increases.
Since stepping down as premier a year ago, at the height of Italy's debt crisis, Berlusconi has become an increasingly outspoken critic of the euro and of the common currency area's most influential government - Germany.
The former premier returned to the theme on Saturday, saying Germany had forced him to accept decisions at European Union summits that "I never agreed with."
He also referred to an episode dating back to an October 2011 European Union summit - just days before he stepped down as premier - when Merkel and then French president Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to exchange a knowing smile when asked at a press conference about the reliability of the Berlusconi government - an episode that at the time prompted a complaint from the Italian Foreign Ministry.
"With those smiles Merkel and Sarkozy attempted a political assassination of my international credibility," Berlusconi said Saturday.
On top of being convicted by judges in Milan over a fraudulent accounting scheme adopted by his Mediaset media company, Berlusconi remains in the dock in the high-profile "bunga bunga" trial, where he is accused of having paid for sex with a minor - the go-go dancer Karima el-Mahroug, also known as Ruby Rubacuori (Stealer of Hearts).
Berlusconi, who denies the charges, is also accused of abusing his position by pressuring police to release the then-17-year-old Mahroug after she had been arrested on theft charges by claiming she was the nephew of former Egyptian president Hosny Mubarak.
A first instance judgement on the case is expected to be delivered in December.
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