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Berlusconi wants to return to politics

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Sat October 27, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declares innocence in tax conviction
  • During televised speech, he said he wants to get back into politics and "reform the justice system"
  • He ruled out being a candidate for prime minister; he has served three terms in his career
  • Because of appeals process, Berlusconi and fellow defendants unlikely to see prison

(CNN) -- A day after he was sentenced to four years in prison for tax evasion, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declared his innocence in a televised speech and reiterated his desire to return to politics to "reform the justice system."

But he said he would not be a candidate for prime minister when parliamentary elections take place next year.

Berlusconi, 76, has served as Italy's prime minister on three separate occasions. His last term ended in November, when he resigned because of the country's debt crisis.

During an 18-year era in which he dominated Italian politics, Berlusconi had been accused of embezzlement, fraud and bribery. But he hadn't been convicted of anything until this week, when a Milan court found that his Mediaset television group inflated distribution rights to avoid paying taxes. The trial also involved other Mediaset executives and the head of a Swiss bank.

Under the Italian legal system, Berlusconi and his fellow defendants have the right to appeal their sentence twice, in the appeals court and a higher court.

Because of that process, it's likely that nobody will have to serve any prison time. The case dates to July 2006, and there is a statute of limitations that will expire next year.

In an interview Friday on CNN affiliate TGCOM24, Berlusconi said he was a "victim of judicial harassment," and he called the court's decision an "unacceptable political sentence."

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