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Ruling favors Berlusconi in corruption trial

By Hada Messia, CNN
February 25, 2012 -- Updated 1449 GMT (2249 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Judge rules that statute of limitations has expired
  • Prosecutors had asked for five years in prison
  • Ex-PM survived political, corruption, sex scandals before quitting in November

Rome (CNN) -- A judge has dismissed the corruption case against former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, saying that the statute of limitations has expired.

Berlusconi was charged with bribing a British lawyer, David Mills, to secure favorable testimony in legal cases.

Although Saturday's decision will spare Berlusconi prison time, the ruling is not the same as an acquittal. A written report on the case will be published within 90 days.

The ruling is a victory for the former premier's lawyers, who had argued that the statute of limitations in the case has expired. Mills' conviction in the case was overturned in 2010.

Berlusconi, 75, dominated Italian politics for a decade and a half before resigning amid a financial crisis in November. He has survived a series of political, corruption and sex scandals over the years, involving allegations of embezzlement, tax fraud and bribery.

In addition to the Mills case, he also faces trial on charges that he hired an underage prostitute and later tried to pull strings to get her out of jail when she was arrested for theft.

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