Appeals court rejects defense team's request to remove judge

ROME — An appeals court on Friday ruled to keep the lead judge on in the Silvio Berlusconi TV rights price-fixing trial, a small but unexpected setback for the former prime minister.

Berlusconi and a group of business associates, including independent Hollywood producer distrib Frank Agrama, stand trial on charges of embezzlement, false accounting and tax fraud in connection with allegedly inflating the price of TV rights on U.S. movies for Berlusconi’s Mediaset empire.

Berlusconi’s defense team tried to remove Judge Edoardo D’Avossa, saying his objectivity was tainted from his involvement in previous Mediaset trials, but the appeals court rejected that argument. News agency Apcom reported Berlusconi’s defense team vowed to appeal to the highest court, a move that would certainly delay the trial further.

The next trial date is set for Dec. 11, which coincides with a weeklong strike called by Italy’s attorneys. If the strike occurs as expected, the next trial date will be pushed back to Jan. 12.

As expected, Berlusconi did not appear in court Friday. He had been told by doctors to limit his activities after collapsing at a political rally on Nov. 26 and spending three days in the ICU unit of a Milan hospital. However, the nation’s wealthiest media tycoon was fit enough to address a political rally in Rome on Saturday night.

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