The European Court of Human Rights has taken a first step toward issuing a judgment over the treatment of Italy's flamboyant ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who was ousted from parliament in 2013 following a tax fraud conviction.

In a three-paragraph statement issued Monday, the Strasbourg, France-based court said it asked the Italian government whether the decision to strip Berlusconi of his senatorial seat amounted to retroactive punishment.

The three-term premier spent years fighting allegations of corruption stemming from his media interests. He was ousted from parliament following a 2012 law that prevents anyone sentenced to more than two years from holding or running for public office for at least six years.

Court official Lavinia Bucurenciu says Italy's government has 16 weeks to respond. Any judgment would come later.