The Latest: Berlusconi lawyers say Italy violated his rights

The Latest on Silvio Berlusconi's appeal at the European Court of Human Rights over his barring from public office in Italy (all times local):

3:50 a.m.

Lawyers for Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian government have sparred in Europe's human rights court in an unusual, high-profile case that could aid Berlusconi's efforts for a political comeback.

His lawyer Edward Fitzgerald argued at the European Court of Human Rights that Italy violated Berlusconi's human rights with a decree barring him from public office for a tax fraud conviction.

He said Berlusconi was unfairly targeted by the decree for political reasons, and compared it to sending Roman gladiators to their deaths.

A lawyer for Italy's government, Maria Giuliana Civinini, insisted that the government respected Europe's human rights convention and that the eligibility rules "were not introduced to persecute, and there was nothing personal about it."

The Strasbourg, France-based court is expected to make a decision in the case in the coming months, but it might not rule in time for Italy's 2018 election campaign.


11:50 a.m.

Silvio Berlusconi says he's hopeful the European Court of Human Rights will agree that Italy violated his rights by barring him from public office — but says he'll participate in Italy's upcoming electoral campaign regardless.

The Strasbourg, France-based court was holding a first appeal hearing Wednesday for the 81-year-old, three-time Italian premier, who has emerged from the political shadows in the run-up to the 2018 elections.

"I hope the court quickly takes up my appeal," Berlusconi told La Repubblica on Wednesday. "But my role in the next campaign is clear: Independent of my ability to run, I will be campaigning for the center right to lead the country."