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A court in Italy has ruled that former three-time Premier Silvio Berlusconi is eligible to run for office again, nearly five years after a tax fraud conviction forced him to surrender his Senate seat and prevented him from being a candidate in national elections.

Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera reported Saturday that Milan's Surveillance Tribunal made the decision after reviewing a request from lawyers for the 81-year-old Berlusconi, a media mogul who founded a center-right political party a quarter-century ago.

The ban on his seeking or holding public office was due to expire in 2019. But Corriere della Sera said the tribunal ruled Friday that Berlusconi already had been "rehabilitated."

"Silvio Berlusconi can finally return to the playing field," Mara Carfagna, a leader of the ex-premier's Forza Italia party. "The 'rehabilitation' by the Milan Surveillance Court puts an end to a judicial persecution and a cavalry that didn't chip away at the strength of great leadership, that, in a profoundly changed political scenario, is today still fundamental and central."

Milan Prosecutor General Roberto Alfonso said prosecutors have 15 days to decide if they will appeal the tribunal's decision.

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