Italy demands Brazil extradite Cesare Battisti, 1970s far-left militant | News | DW | 07.10.2017
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Italy demands Brazil extradite Cesare Battisti, 1970s far-left militant

Italian MPs have demanded Brazil extradite the former far-left militant Cesare Battisti. Ex-Brazilian President Lula da Silva rejected Italy's extradition request in 2010, but his protection is now long gone.

The Brazilian government is deciding whether to extradite Battisti, Justice Minister Torquato Jardim said on Friday.

Italian lawmakers including ex-premier Matteo Renzi have demanded Battisti face justice for murder convictions in Italy. He was convicted in absentia in 1990 after escaping from prison and fleeing via France and Mexico to Brazil.

"Extradition is possible and Italy is determined he serve time to give back, at least in part, what was taken from our country and the families of his victims," Italian Justice Minister Andrea Orlando said.

Battisti is an ex-member of a 1970s left-wing terror group the Armed Proletarians for Communism (APC). He was caught in Brazil in a taxi near Corumba, a frontier town close to the Bolivian border in what was reported to be an attempt to flee the country.

Suspected of money laundering

Carrying about $7,500 (€ 6,500) in dollars and euros he was initially put under arrest, but a judge ordered his release, pending an investigation, late on Friday.

According to a statement from a court in the Brazilian state where Battisti was held, he is suspected of money laundering and carrying more foreign currency than is legal. Those granted asylum must also seek permission to leave the country under Brazilian law.

Battisti's defense lawyer denied that he had committed any financial crime, according to court documents.

Italian Premier Aldo Moro was kidnapped and his bodyguards killed in Rome in 1978

Italian Premier Aldo Moro was kidnapped and his bodyguards killed in Rome in 1978

Brazil to reverse extradition decision?

Brazil's Supreme Court authorized Battisti's extradition in 2009, but Lula da Silva granted him refugee status on his last day in office in 2010, a move that soured relations with Rome.

Lula's protection is now long gone and Michel Temer, the center-right president who took office last year when Lula's ally Dilma Rousseff was impeached, is seen as less likely to be lenient on Battisti.

According to O Globo daily's website, Italy asked Brazil's government last week to reconsider its extradition of Battisti.

The Italian's lawyer, Igor Sant'Anna, told Reuters that he had sought an injunction last week due to the risk that Temer's government could agree to Italy's request.

If Brazil decides to send Battisti back to Italy, there is no need for a new extradition request by Rome because the earlier one approved by the Supreme Court is still standing, Brazilian officials said.

Cesare Battisti escorted by police as he left court in Brazil in 2009

Cesare Battisti escorted by police as he left court in Brazil in 2009

The 'Years of Lead'

Battisti has acknowledged membership in the APC armed group but denies killing anyone during the three years from 1976 when it operated. 

The period was marked by political terror on a scale not seen in Italy since before the Fascist inter-war years.

The Italian Communist Party (PCI) was on the verge of taking office for the first time, having won 35 percent of the vote in national elections in 1978.

After protracted negotiations, the PCI entered into what it called a 'Historic Compromise' with the ruling Christian Democrats. This alienated many of the more radical, revolutionary elements in the party and wider movement.

The 'Years of Lead' refer to the spate of political killings that marred the late 1970s in Italy.

Battisti was convicted in 1979 and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The group organized his escape in 1981 from Frosinone prison. Battisti fled to Paris and then Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico. In Mexico, he founded a literary review, Via Libre which is still going

The circumstances of his trial have been brought into question by his supporters including the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and the Human Rights League (LDH). The 62-year old Battisti is a writer of fiction and has published 15 books.

jbh/jm (AP, Reuters)

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