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Berlusconi says president should pardon him, slams 'coup d'etat'

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appears as a guest on the RAI television show Porta a Porta (Door to Door) in Rome January 9
Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appears as a guest on the RAI television show Porta a Porta (Door to Door) in Rome January 9

ROME (Reuters) - Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called on Saturday for a presidential pardon following his conviction for tax fraud and said his expulsion from parliament in a vote next week would be a "coup d'etat".

On Wednesday the Senate will vote on whether the 77-year-old Berlusconi should lose his seat, after he was found guilty in August of masterminding a complex and illegal system to reduce the tax bill of his media company Mediaset.

"The left should not imagine that we will allow this coup d'etat to go ahead without any response," Berlusconi told an assembly of young followers of his center-right Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party.

The vote is expected to go against the billionaire media-mogul, with Prime Minister Enrico Letta's Democratic Party and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement both in favour of his expulsion.

Berlusconi, who has always protested his innocence, said President Giorgio Napolitano should grant him a pardon without going through the normal procedure which Napolitano has said would be necessary.

"The president should not have a moment's hesitation to take a step that cancels the ignominy of community service without me presenting a request, because I have the dignity to not request it," Berlusconi said.

The Milan court sentenced the four-time prime minister to four years in prison, commuted to a year under house arrest or in community service.

In a passionate speech, Berlusconi said that being ordered to "clean toilets", in community service would "expose not just me but our country to ridicule".

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; editing by Andrew Roche)

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