What’s Behind Berlusconi’s Rare Court Appearance?

My piece on Berlusconi’s court appearance has been published at Time.

There were no reporters allowed when Silvio Berlusconi appeared before judges and prosecutors on Monday. But that didn’t much matter, because while the Italian Prime Minister was inside attending court for the first time in eight years, he made sure that most of the action happened outside.

Photographers greeted the premier’s motorcade with long bursts from their digital cameras, and after the hearing was over, Berlusconi paused amidst a throng of reporters to wave to supporters chanting his name. That morning, a little more than an hour before his court appearance, the prime minister called into one of the television channels owned by his media company to denounce the charges against him as politically motivated accusations. Left-wing prosecutors, he said, are seeking to keep a “judicial Sword of Damocles” hanging over his head. “It was a sort of defense peroration without anybody from the prosecution to cross-examine him,” says James Walston, a political scientist at the American University of Rome. “Whatever happened in court, what remains in the public eye is his appearance on television and his supporters cheering outside the courthouse.”

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