Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been embroiled in a seemingly endless parade of scandals during his poltical career, but he rarely appears in court. On Monday, he made his first court appearance in eight years when he attended a hearing in Milan on charges of tax fraud and embezzlement in an effort, as he put it, to defend himself before the Italian people. Berlusconi is accused of inflating the price of television rights purchased by his company, Mediatrade, to finance political activities. He denies the charges.
Before the hearing, the 74-year-old prime minister alluded to a judicial conspiracy against him and called himself "the most accused man in the universe and in history," according to The Telegraph. Berlusconi is simultaneously facing charges that he paid for sex with an underage prostitute and abused his power in trying to cover it up. In January, Italy's constitutional court overturned a law that had effectively granted Berlusconi immunity from prosecution while he was in office.
Dow Jones notes that Berlusconi's popularity in Italy is declining as his legal cases mount, but the Italian leader hasn't lost all his defenders. According to The Telegraph, Alessandra Mussolini--an Italian politician who also happens to be the granddaughter of dictator Benito Mussolini--recently criticized an Italian model for calling Berlusconi an embarassment to the country. "She's insulted the majority of Italians, who voted for our prime minister with conviction," Mussolini said.