As the general election campaign hots up, Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, who has never hidden his antipathy for the judiciary, has already made a number of attacks on magistrates. He has accused some of them of an inappropriate intervention in economic affairs. He has also defended Cesare Geronzi, president of Italys third largest banking group, who has been suspended from his job on charges of complicity in the bankruptcy of Italian dairy giant, Parmalat.

The national association of magistrates, meeting in Rome, has counter-attacked, stressing that its members have always applied the law impartially and equally. The president of the Italian supreme court has said publicly that the prime minister is generalising in his accusations and that he is suffering from a persecution complex.