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Sep 19, 4:25 PM EDT

Lawyer: EU court agrees to hear Berlusconi appeal

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ROME (AP) -- A lawyer for ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Friday the European Court for Human Rights has agreed to take up one point of an appeal related to a tax fraud conviction that cost him his Senate seat.

Attorney Piero Longo said the Strasbourg, France-based court agreed to examine Berlusconi's claim that the rules of a fair trial had been violated in his case.

Berlusconi was sentenced in 2013 to four years in prison on a tax fraud conviction relating to the purchase of TV rights to U.S. films on his Mediaset network. His sentence, upheld by Italy's highest court, was reduced to one year, which he is currently serving by performing public service once a week at a home for the elderly.

After the sentence was upheld, Berlusconi was ousted from parliament under a 2012 law that prevents anyone sentenced to more than two years from holding or running for public office for at least six years.

Berlusconi has long maintained his innocence and insisted he has been the victim of left-leaning magistrates.

His Strasbourg appeal centered on the argument that in applying the 2012 law retroactively, Italy violated European norms by imposing a heavier penalty on him than was applicable at the time of the crime.

Italian news agency ANSA, which first reported Longo's announcement, said several elements of Berlusconi's appeal had been rejected by the court in recent months.

Calls to spokespeople at the court went unanswered late Friday.

The court's rulings are binding on the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog of which Italy is a member. In most cases, the court only imposes fines or calls for subtle changes to laws.

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