Italy court upholds Berlusconi’s tax fraud conviction

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
August 2, 2013

Italy’s supreme court rebuffs Berlusconi’s appeal, Kerry praises the Egyptian military, and Snowden asylum strains U.S., Russia relations. Today is Friday, August 2, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures during a vote session at the Senate in Rome, July 19, 2013. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Guilty as charged. Italy’s supreme court upheld a conviction of tax fraud against disgraced leader Silvio Berlusconi,  further stressing Italy’s fragile government:

The 76-year-old billionaire and his supporters have reacted angrily to his conviction and prison term, the first definitive sentence he has received in dozens of trials during his two decades in politics. While he is unlikely to spend any time in jail due to his age, the verdict was an unprecedented blow and he could lose his seat in parliament within weeks with a vote on expelling him from the Senate likely in September… As well as the tax fraud case, Berlusconi is also fighting a separate conviction for paying for sex with a minor, in the notorious “bunga bunga” prostitution case that tarnished his final months in office in 2011.

This marks the first time the media mogul was finally convicted, though he had been involved in up to 30 court cases. Italy’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta took office three months ago, heading a shaky coalition between his center-left Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party and attempting to pull the country out of economic morass. Reuters columnist John Lloyd explains that a rift could result from Berlusconi loyalists refusing to continue to serve in the face of his conviction, while his opponents demand Berlusconi sever ties with the coalition. Some analysts predict that Italy won’t feel the brunt of political instability until the fall, when Italians return from the summer holiday.  Reuters has produced a video run-down of Berlusconi’s colorful career.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans in Shubra as they march towards Adawiya Square in the Nasr city area, east of Cairo, where they are camping on August 2, 2013. The poster reads “Anti coup.” REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Stamp of approval. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Egypt’s military was “restoring democracy” when it removed president Mohamed Mursi from office last month, while calling on the interim government to respect peaceful protest by Mursi supporters. On Thursday Egypt’s interim government told those holding vigil for the deposed president to disband, but Mursi supporters have not heeded the call:

Thousands were gathered in two Muslim Brotherhood camps in Cairo, defying warnings from the new army-backed government to abandon their protest or face action from security forces. At the main Rabaa al-Adawiya camp on Friday morning, young men wearing crash helmets and brandishing sticks mounted a first line of defense behind barricades of sandbags and bricks… Political sources said there had been intense debate within the cabinet on the wisdom of the security forces taking action.

The Muslim Brotherhood criticized Kerry for the statement, saying “we totally reject these statements and we are disappointed by them.” Nearly 300 people have been killed in political violence since Mursi’s overthrow. The deposed president is being held by the army at an undisclosed location, and is being investigated for alleged crimes including murder.

Fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden’s new refugee documents granted by Russia is seen during a news conference in Moscow, August 1, 2013. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Summit snafu. Though Russian officials said on Thursday that the Kremlin’s decision to grant wanted NSA leaker Edward Snowden temporary asylum would not harm relations between Russia and the U.S., it appears that Washington feels otherwise:

The United States wanted Russia to send Snowden home to face criminal charges including espionage for disclosing in June secret American Internet and telephone surveillance programs. The White House signaled that President Barack Obama may boycott a September summit with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow… Putin’s move aggravated relations with the United States that were already strained by Russian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s bloody civil war and a host of other issues. “We see this as an unfortunate development and we are extremely disappointed by it,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington. “We are evaluating the utility of a summit, in light of this and other issues, but I have no announcement today on that.”

Strained ties between the nations will make it even harder for the U.S. and Russia to see eye-to-eye on the Syrian conflict, Iran’s nuclear program, human rights, and other points of contention between the two.

Nota Bene: Iran’s president-elect apparently called Israel a “wound” on the Muslim world that must be removed.

Standouts:

Heart savings - An Indian heart surgeon-turned-businessman hopes to reduce the cost of heart surgery by 98 percent. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Nice natural selection - A new study shows evolution doesn’t favor selfish people. (BBC)

Apply online - Libya accepts web applications to head the country’s central bank. (Quartz)

No fracking way - UK protesters fight fracking. (Al Jazeera)

Nuclear punches - Taiwanese officials get into fisticuffs over nuclear bill. (The Guardian)

From the File:

  • Five wounded in Benghazi police station.
  • Al Qaeda appears to be linked to a threat that prompted several U.S. embassies to close on Sunday.
  • U.N. rights chief calls for investigation into Syria massacre.
  • Tunisian forces launch air strikes on Islamist militants.
  • Pope hopes to align Church hierarchy with the pews.
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