14 Dec 2009

Italian PM assaulted at rally

11:01 pm on 14 December 2009

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is in hospital following an attack during a rally in Milan.

Mr Berlusconi was taken to hospital for treatment and the BBC reports he is suffering a broken nose and facial cuts.

The attack happened at the end of a rally during which Mr Berlusconi had been addressing supporters.

Eyewitnesses say the 73-year-old leader was signing autographs when a man hurled a miniature tourist replica of Milan's gothic cathedral at him from close range, hitting him squarely in the face.

There had been some heckling during his speech and scuffles between members of the audience and security staff.

Television pictures showed Mr Berlusconi looking stunned, with blood under his nose and around his mouth.

His alleged assailant, Massimo Tartaglia, 42, is in police custody. The police say the suspect has a history of poor mental health.

Mr Berlusconi has been under pressure in recent months. His private life has been in the spotlight amid allegations that he slept with prostitutes and after his wife filed for divorce.

He has dismissed accusations of ties to the Mafia, and criminal cases against him have resumed after a law giving him immunity was overturned.

A week ago tens of thousands of people attended an anti-Berlusconi rally in Rome.