Italy deputies OK pro-Berlusconi colleague arrest

Italian lawmakers dealt Premier Silvio Berlusconi his latest political blow, voting on Wednesday to allow the arrest of one of his deputies in a corruption probe.

Italian lawmakers enjoy immunity from arrest unless they vote to lift the permission. Berlusconi had lobbied against the authorization by the lower Chamber of Deputies, where his government holds a majority. But the lawmakers, by secret ballot, voted 319 to 293 to allow Alfonso Papa to be detained.

The lawmaker, from Berlusconi's conservative Freedom People party, had proclaimed his innocence in a speech to his fellow deputies just ahead of the vote. Afterward, Papa said he felt "like a political prisoner," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted him as saying.

The vote was the latest occasion for Berlusconi's chief coalition ally, the Northern League, to split with the premier on key issues. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, the top League leader in Berlusconi's Cabinet, indicated to reporters right after the secret ballot that he had approved the arrest.

Berlusconi's aides described the premier at a huddle with political advisers before the vote as expressing fears that a "yes" could trigger a replay of the flood of arrests of politicians two decades ago in the Clean Hands kickback probes, Italian media said. Berlusconi jumped into politics in the 1990s, taking advantage of the scandal-decimated political parties that swept away a generation of Christian Democrat and Socialist leaders.

Naples prosecutors are investigating Papa for suspected graft in a wider probe of a purported, secretive organization dubbed "P4" involving politicians, businessmen and other influential figures.

Berlusconi has suffered several political blows in recent months, including defeats of his candidates in key mayoral races in late spring.

He has also split with his Northern League partner on some policy issues, including over his government's participation in NATO bombing missions of Libya.

In a separate vote in an unrelated corruption probe, the Senate, parliament's upper chamber, denied permission for the house arrest of a left-wing opposition politician.

(Published by Associated Press - July 20, 2011)

latest top stories

subscribe |  contact us |  sponsors |  migalhas in portuguese |  migalhas latinoamérica