Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi remained inside his Roman residence on Tuesday (July 30) as the country's highest court met to hear the final appeal against a prison term and a ban for tax fraud, a ruling that threatens the fragile Letta government and could finally stifle Berlusconi' political career.

Media and security remained outside Palazzo Grazioli, Berlusconi's central Rome residence but the man himself is not expected to be seen anywhere near the court building.

The court may take up to three days to deliver its ruling.

Berlusconi, 76, accuses left-wing magistrates of trying to bring him down in more than two dozen court cases since he stormed to power for the first time in 1994.

Berlusconi's lawyers have filed 50 objections to the supreme court, which will rule only on legal procedure and whether the previous appeal court properly justified its sentence.

The court has three choices: convict Berlusconi, acquit him or send the case back to the appeal court because of legal errors. It could also postpone a decision, probably until September - a move advocated by moderate politicians who want to avoid a summer crisis.

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