Berlusconi indicted for 'Senator bribe'

(ANSA) - Naples, October 23 - A Naples judge on Wednesday sent ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi to trial over allegations he bribed former Senator Sergio De Gregorio to change political sides.

Valter Lavitola, an associate of the ex-premier's, was also indicted for allegedly acting as a go-between.

The trial will begin February 11.

Prosecutors have claimed Lavitola tried to bribe other Senators who have not been identified.

De Gregorio has told investigators he received three million euros from Berlusconi to leave the centre-left government of Romano Prodi in 2006.

The indictment added to a series of legal woes for billionaire tycoon Berlusconi, the charismatic centre-right leader who is facing ejection from the Senate and one year of community service for tax fraud at his media group, his first binding conviction in 20 years of judicial battles.

The three-time premier is appealing two convictions by courts of first instance: one for paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his office as premier to try to cover it up; and another for involvement in the publication of an illegal wiretap.

The People of Freedom (PdL) party leader says he has been targeted by politically motivated magistrates since he entered politics in 1994.

Berlusconi's impending ejection from the Senate because of a ban stemming from the fraud conviction has caused a long-running row with the PdL's government partner, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

The PdL almost split when pro-government doves forced Berlusconi into an embarrassing U-turn on a confidence vote on the ban.

While the rift was patched up, PdL hawks are insisting the PD should change its stance on approving the ban.

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