National News

Berlusconi begins community service

By Colleen Barry, The Associated Press

CESANO BOSCONE, Italy - Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was greeted by dozens of journalists and a lone union protester at his arrival Friday at a facility for Alzheimer's patients to begin his first four-hour community service stint as part of a tax fraud sentence

Berlusconi, dressed casually in a jacket but no tie, made no comment as he left his black sedan and was escorted inside the Alzheimer's ward of the Sacra Famiglia centre by an administrator. Just after he was whisked inside, a lone protester from the Cub union yelled that the three-time former premier should be entering the nearby San Vittore prison instead of performing community service.

Berlusconi, 77, was ordered to perform four hours of community service a week for a year after his four-year sentence was reduced to one by a general amnesty. He also lost his Senate seat due to the conviction, but remains an important political force as head of his Forza Italia party. The court's order permits him flexibility to campaign for the upcoming European elections, but only in the northern Lombard region and around Rome, where he can travel from Tuesday to Thursday.

Berlusconi has promised surprises during his service — and told private radio on Thursday that he has been studying the latest treatments for Alzheimer's disease "to give nurses a way to be able to do more."

Still, Sacra Famiglia's director has said his integration into the routine will be much more gradual than Berlusconi may imagine, with a period of observation and acclimation with the needs of Alzheimer's patients for the initial sessions.

He arrives after breakfast during a period of recreation, where caregivers assist in activities that can include playing music for the patients. Lunch follows, but it is unlikely Berlusconi will help feed patients, at least at first. Then there is a period of rest, during which many patients return to their rooms.

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