Milan - Silvio Berlusconi has lost a legal bid to reclaim
his passport, judicial sources told Reuters on Wednesday, leaving the
scandal-hit former prime minister stranded in Italy while fellow conservatives
travel to a conference near Brussels.
Berlusconi's passport was confiscated when he was
convicted of tax fraud in August and sentenced to four years in prison,
commuted to a year under house arrest or in community service.
He has repeatedly denied suggestions he might flee
abroad, a move that would follow in the footsteps of another ex-prime minister,
Bettino Craxi, who spent the last years of his life in the 1990s in Tunisia
after a corruption conviction.
The court on Monday dismissed the argument of
Berlusconi's lawyers that stopping him going to the meeting flouted Europe's
Schengen accord on the free movement of citizens, the sources said.
The accord abolished border controls but was not set up
to allow people to travel without valid documents, the court ruled, according
to the sources.
Mariastella Gelmini, former education minister and a
senior official in Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, said the court's decision
was part of "a chain of attacks" aimed at denying Berlusconi his
"His absence from the meeting of the European Popular
Party should be good reason for all the other European centre-right leaders to
reflect on the state of justice in Italy," she said.
Berlusconi's spokesperson was not immediately available
The billionaire media tycoon was invited to the European
Popular Party meeting by Joseph Daul, the head of the movement's group at the
Berlusconi, 77, who was expelled from the Italian
parliament last month, has applied to do community service but has still not
begun serving his sentence.
He is currently appealing against other convictions for
abuse of office and paying for sex with an under-age prostitute.
But he says he will remain in front-line politics,
leading his Forza Italia party from outside parliament.
Berlusconi denies all wrongdoing in all of the cases
against him and says he is persecuted by politically motivated prosecutors and