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Silvio Berlusconi has been accused of "disfiguring" Italian democracy for personal advantage after passing a law that will see 100,000 criminal trials – including his own – suspended.
In what was described as a "dark day" in Italian history, the nation's Senate voted to freeze for a year all trials which began before June 2002 and which carry possible sentences of fewer than 10 years.
The law covers trials for offences including manslaughter, theft, kidnapping, grievous bodily harm, extortion, fraud and corruption.