Berlusconi makes court appearance
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi made a rare court appearance, greeting supporters who gathered outside a closed-door hearing in a tax fraud case.
Mr Berlusconi waved from inside a black limousine as he arrived at the court tightly guarded by 100 riot police. After Monday's two-hour hearing, he emerged briefly from the car on his way out to address hundreds of people waiting outside.
"Thank you, thank you all," Mr Berlusconi told cheering supporters who waved Italian flags and banners bearing his party emblem. "It all went fine."
Across the street, a smaller group of detractors booed and called for his resignation.
He premier did not address the court during the hearing on technical matters, instead reserving his comments on the case for an on-air phone call to one of his television stations.
Prosecutors in the Mediatrade case allege fraud in the sale of film rights by his Mediaset company in a case identical to an ongoing trial, but with allegations relating to a more recent period.
The preliminary hearing will decide whether to charge the premier, in what would be his fourth active trial. A decision is not expected before the end of May.
He has always denied wrongdoing and denounced what he says are left-leaning magistrates intent on hurting him politically.
The Italian leader has a history of legal troubles but has rarely showed up in court - the last time was in 2003 for a bribery trial in which he was eventually acquitted on one count while the statute of limitations expired on another.
His lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, repeated the premier will attend hearings as his schedule allows. Three more dates have been set for the preliminary hearing judge to hear evidence to decide whether to indict the premier.