UPDATE 1: See Michael Ledeen analysis of PM Berlusconi here. (H/T Vince Mariano)
(ANSA) - Rome, February 9 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi suffered permanent physical harm in the attack last December by a mentally unstable man who hit him in the face with a metal statuette after a Milan political rally, medical examiners said Tuesday.
In their report, which may have bearing on the charges facing his attacker, the court-appointed doctors said the premier's broken nose and two chipped teeth had ''permanently impaired his ability to chew''.
Despite returning to work in high spirits less than a month after the attack, Berlusconi required a tooth implant and cosmetic surgery for his facial injuries.
While they established the lasting harm inflicted in the attack, the court doctors also shortened the legal length of Berlusconi's convalescence from the 90 days first indicated by his personal physician Alberto Zangrillo to 20-40 days.
Chief practitioner at San Raffaele hospital in Milan where Berlusconi was first treated for his wounds, Zangrillo said that the examiners' report ''wasn't official'' and didn't necessarily override his prognosis.
Observers on Tuesday remained divided on what, if any, ramifications the examiners' report could have on the charges facing Massimo Tartaglia, 42, the man awaiting trial for Berlusconi's attack.
Some reports in the Italian media predict that reducing the length of Berlusconi's legal convalescence will mean a simple assault charge for Tartaglia, who would face no more than three years in jail. But Berlusconi's attorney, Niccolo' Ghedini, argued that by acknowledging the permanent nature of Berlusconi's injuries, the report supported a charge of aggravated assault with a prison term up to seven years long.
Tartaglia was moved to a mental health community on Monday at the behest of his lawyers, who said their client was mentally unstable and in ''urgent'' need of therapy.
His defence team is expected to ask for a commuted sentence in a mental healthcare facility should he be convicted.
Berlusconi says he has "forgiven Tartaglia", but legal sources say that his crime cannot be compared to a prior attack six years ago by a man who threw a tripod at him, which the premier was also quick to pardon.
They say that Tartaglia, by contrast, will have to answer for his actions which caused considerable harm to a state official, unlike the tripod attack.