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Italian Senate Strips Berlusconi Of His Seat

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures during a speech to supporters Wednesday in Rome.
Tony Gentile
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures during a speech to supporters Wednesday in Rome.

Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. Berlusconi Expelled:

"Vote is done. Berlusconi is no longer senator," Reuters reported just before noon ET on its live blog.

So, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who as we said earlier has survived many other threats to his political life, now faces perhaps his most serious challenge.

Stripped of his power base in the Senate, the 77-year-old news media mogul may now pay for the crimes he's already been convicted of carrying out — which include tax fraud and paying for sex with an underage prostitute. He also now faces possible arrest on other charges as prosecutors pursue other corruption allegations.

There's a Q&A from the BBC that walks through Berlusconi's previous convictions and the ramifications of Wednesday's action in the Senate. One important note: "Because of his age, he is expected to serve [time under] house arrest, but he has the option of asking to do community service instead."

On a 2012 tax fraud conviction, the BBC notes, Berlusconi was "sentenced to four years in prison, automatically reduced to one under a 2006 pardon act." In March 2013 he was sentenced to one year in jail for arranging a police wiretap on a political rival and then leaking information from it. In June 2013, Berlusconi was sentenced "to seven years in jail and banned from ever again holding public office" on the sex charge. That conviction is being appealed.

Looking ahead, The Guardian writes, Berlusconi "has been ordered to stand trial on charges of bribing a senator in an attempt to bring down [former Prime Minister] Romano Prodi's government."

Our original post follows with more on the day's debate in the Italian Senate and why this may be the last of Berlusconi's nine political lives:

Click here for a Channel 4 webcast of Italian senators debating whether to expel former Premier Silvio Berlusconi from their ranks. A vote is expected later today. (The webcast's audio is not translated, but you don't have to understand Italian to get the gist.)

As we've reported, a Senate panel in October recommended stripping Berlusconi of his seat. The 77-year-old, the BBC reminds readers, has been:

-- "Convicted of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and of abuse of power for asking police to release her when she was arrested for theft; under appeal."

-- "Convicted of tax fraud in [a] case focusing on the purchase of the TV rights to US films by his company, Mediaset."

-- "Acquitted in several other cases; also convicted in several, only to be cleared on appeal; others expired under statute of limitations."

Earlier Wednesday, Reuters says, the never-shy Berlusconi told his supporters at a rally in Rome that this is "a bitter day, a day of mourning for Italian democracy." Reuters is live blogging and also has live video of the rally outside Berlusconi's home.

Berlusconi has survived many other threats to his political life. But the BBC notes that:

"Expulsion will be a blow to his prestige and a bitter reminder that he is a convicted criminal. More importantly, it will leave him open to the possibility of arrest in some of the ongoing trials against him as he loses the protection afforded to parliamentarians."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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