Berlusconi treated for eye inflammation in Italy
By COLLEEN BARRY
MILAN (AP) -- Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was being treated Friday in a Milan hospital for inflammation of his eyes that prevented him from attending his sex-for-hire trial.
Berlusconi was suffering from bilateral uveitis and could be kept in the hospital overnight, said Dr. Alberto Zangrillo, Berlusconi's personal physician.
`'Berlusconi had a painful night," Zangrillo told reporters at the San Raffaele hospital, saying the media mogul was suffering from nerve pain, sensitivity to light, tears and vision problems.
Berlusconi, 76, skipped a final campaign rally ahead of last month's elections due to another eye condition, posterior vitreous detachment, which is common among the elderly and involves a gel-like substance in the eye pulling away from the retina.
Berlusconi's legal team, meanwhile, cited the medical condition as a legitimate impediment to a hearing in the sensational trial charging Berlusconi with having paid for sex with a Moroccan teen and using his influence to cover it up.
The court accepted the petition after deliberating for several hours, over the objections of prosecutor Ilda Boccassini who was scheduled to complete her closing arguments in the case and who asked the court to send independent doctors to confirm Berlusconi's illness.
Defendants in Italy aren't required to appear in court, but can petition to delay a hearing for legitimate reasons preventing their attendance.
Berlusconi's defense also submitted a petition to delay a hearing Saturday in Berlusconi's appeals trial for his tax fraud conviction. He was sentenced to four years in October. Prosecutors are seeking to confirm the sentence, which includes a five-year ban on holding public office.
Both the sex-for-hire and tax fraud cases are nearing verdicts at a particularly sensitive time politically for Italy.
February elections produced no clear winners and talks on forming a new government aren't expected to begin until March 20, after Parliament convenes next week and leaders of both houses are elected. Berlusconi's center-right coalition finished second to the center-left alliance of Pier Luigi Bersani, who is expected to be tapped as premier.
In another case, Berlusconi on Thursday was convicted of breach of confidentiality and sentenced to one year in jail for the publication in 2005 of wiretapped conversations related to an attempted bank takeover.
He also is being investigated in Naples for allegedly having paid (euro) 3 million ($3.9 million) to a lawmaker to defect to his party, a move that significantly weakened the former government of Romano Prodi. Prodi was heard by prosecutors on Friday in the case, according to Italian news reports.
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