France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has promised a convicted Red Brigades activist that she will not be extradited to Italy.
Sarkozy said he asked his wife to intervene on humanitarian grounds
Marina Petrella, 54, played a key part in the militant group, which was involved in the 1981 murder of a police officer in Rome. She is receiving treatment in a Paris hospital after going on a hunger strike to protest extradition to Italy, where she would face charges.
President Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Monday, Oct. 13, that his Italian-born wife had visited Petrella and that she would not be expelled. Sarkozy said he made the decision over the weekend on "humanitarian grounds."
The news incensed many in Italy, particularly relatives of victims. The Italian Marxist-Leninist terrorist group Brigate Rosse or Red Brigades was responsible for thousands of acts of violence and believed to have been involved in 400 deaths during the 1970s and 1980s.
Just following orders?
The group was extremely violent
Sarkozy confirmed that Carla Bruni-Sarkozy had personally delivered the news to Petrella. Sarkozy said that Petrella's hunger strike needed to be stopped and he thought that the news could put an end to it.
"My wife was there for a very simple reason: I asked her to do it," Sarkozy told a news conference in Paris. "I asked her to go because Ms Petrella was in danger of dying."
But Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, the first lady's sister, said she had asked Bruni-Sarkozy to go to the president and urge him to block the extradition. Bruni-Tedeschi said she and her sister had together broken the news to Petrella last Wednesday.
"I just felt that it would be a terrible thing for her to die," Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi reportedly told Europe 1 radio.
Petrella had been convicted of plotting to murder a senior Rome police officer and to kidnap a judge. She had been living in France since 1993.