Fugitive Italian communist militant Cesare Battisti captured in Bolivia after help from Brazil
- Cesare Battisti escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 and lived in France before fleeing to Brazil to avoid being extradited
- He has acknowledged membership in the group but has denied killing anyone
Cesare Battisti, a fugitive Italian communist militant sought by Rome for four murders attributed to a far-left group in the 1970s, was arrested in Bolivia and will be extradited to Brazil and then to Italy.
Italy has repeatedly sought the extradition of Battisti, who has lived in Brazil for years under the protection of former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), now in prison for corruption.
“Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti was detained in Bolivia (Saturday night) and will be soon brought to Brazil, from where he will probably be sent to Italy to serve a life sentence,” tweeted Filipe G. Martins, a senior aide on international affairs to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
During Brazil’s recent presidential campaign the far-right Bolsonaro – who took office on January 1 – vowed that if elected he would “immediately” extradite Battisti to Italy.
In mid-December Brazil’s outgoing president, Michel Temer, signed an extradition order for Battisti after a judge ordered his arrest.
By then the Italian ex-militant was nowhere to be found.
Battisti, 64, was arrested late Saturday in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Brazilian Federal Police sources told Brazilian media.
Italy’s envoy to Brazil fired off a triumphant tweet upon hearing the news.
“Battisti has been arrested! Democracy is stronger than terrorism!” ambassador Antonio Bernardini wrote.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called Battisti a “delinquent” and vowed that he will “finish his days in prison”.
Battisti escaped from an Italian prison after being convicted in 1979 of belonging to an outlawed leftist group, the Armed Proletarians for Communism.
He was subsequently convicted in absentia of having killed two Italian policemen, taking part in the murder of a butcher, and helping plan the slaying of a jeweller who died in a shoot-out which left his 14-year-old son in a wheelchair.
Battisti admitted to being part of the group but denied responsibility for any deaths.
He reinvented himself as an author and in 2004 skipped bail in France, where he had taken refuge. He went to live clandestinely in Brazil until he was arrested in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro.
After years in custody, then-president Lula issued a decree – later upheld by Brazil’s Supreme Court – in 2010 refusing Battisti’s extradition to Italy, and he was freed, angering Italy.
Battisti, who has a five-year-old Brazilian son, last year said he faced “torture” and death if he were ever to be sent back to Italy.
Additional reporting by Reuters