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Berlusconi in pain, will remain hospitalized

ROME - Premier Silvio Berlusconi is in pain and will remain hospitalized until at least Tuesday with a fractured nose and two broken teeth from an attack by a mentally disturbed man who hit him in the face with a statuette, doctors and aides said.

The attack shocked Italy, already gripped by a tense political
climate and highly polarized between Berlusconi’s supporters and
his critics.

It also raised questions about the security surrounding the premier. A government official said he expected the premier’s protection to be tightened, as security officials held an emergency meeting.

The 73-year-old Berlusconi was rushed to the San Raffaele
hospital in Milan with his face covered in blood after the attack
in the northern Italian city Sunday afternoon.

TV footage showed that the assailant had come close to
Berlusconi and hurled a souvenir statue of Milan’s Duomo, the
Gothic cathedral that is a symbol of the city, hitting him in the
face. Italian newspapers say the statuette was made of metal.

The attacker, a 42-year-old man with a history of psychological
problems, has been arrested. After a night of questioning at a
police barracks, the man was moved to the San Vittore prison in
Milan, the ANSA news agency said. Police have identified him as
Massimo Tartaglia.

The premier lost a lot of blood and is taking antibiotics and
drugs for “persistent” pain, the hospital said at midday. His
vital signs are normal and he is eating with difficulty but will
not need surgery, his doctor, Alberto Zangrillo, said.
Berlusconi’s spokesman said the premier is tired and has a
strong headache.
“We try to keep him at rest. He would like to re-immerse
himself into his frantic activity, but doctors say caution is
necessary,” Paolo Bonaiuti told Italian media.
The premier asked to see read newspapers upon waking up at the
hospital Monday and was visited by aides, Bonaiuti said.
Berlusconi’s entry into politics has further polarized a society
that is traditionally divided into fiercely opposed factions. Along
with widespread solidarity for the premier, groups praising
Berlusconi’s assailant mushroomed on Facebook in the aftermath of
the attack.
Roberto Maroni, who as interior minister is in charge of police
forces, said he had counted some 300 Facebook groups praising
Tartaglia. He also mentioned Youtube videos showing the attack with
comments inciting more violence.
Maroni, who presided over the meeting in Milan, said the
security detail would be reviewed, but he also added he did not see
any immediate faults. Typically, about 30 secret service agents
protect Berlusconi at his public appearances. But the premier, who
considers himself a man of the people with a taste for showmanship,
also likes to mingle with his supporters and shake hands.
“Berlusconi has the right to get close to his supporters
because this is democracy, this is politics,” said Maroni.
Aides and other people who have seen Berlusconi in recent days
describe him as worried by what he called a climate of hatred
surrounding him.
Zangrillo, who is Berlusconi’s personal physician and the first
one to come to the premier’s aide after the attack, said Berlusconi
was shocked.
“Staring at his bloodied hand, he told me: ’There’s a climate
of hatred, I expected this would happen,”’ Zangrillo was quoted as
saying by Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading newspaper. Bonaiuti,
Berlusconi’s spokesman, had similar comments.
Berlusconi is entangled in a sex scandal and faces criminal
trials for corruption in Milan after an immunity law was overturned
earlier this year. He has faced protests, with tens of thousands
marching in Rome on Dec. 5 to demand his resignation. And a
turncoat recently alleged Berlusconi had ties to the Mafia, an
accusation Berlusconi has forcefully dismissed.
Berlusconi himself has launched vehement attacks at the
judiciary, saying the magistrates who put him on trial are
politically motivated.


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