Brazil’s ‘lit­tle gift’ to Italy: fugi­tive re­turned

The Australian - - WORLD -

MI­LAN: Ital­ian for­mer left­ist guerilla Ce­sare Bat­tisti, con­victed of mur­der and on the run for al­most four decades after es­cap­ing jail, was due to land in Rome last night after be­ing ar­rested while wear­ing a false beard in Bo­livia.

A plane left the Santa Cruz in­ter­na­tional air­port in Bo­livia just be­fore 5pm on Sun­day (8am yes­ter­day AEDT) after lo­cal au­thor­i­ties handed over the 64-yearold fugi­tive to their Ital­ian coun­ter­parts.

“The air­plane with Bat­tisti has just left for Italy: I’m proud and de­lighted,” Italy’s In­te­rior Min­is­ter, Mat­teo Salvini, tweeted.

Bat­tisti was ar­rested on Sat­ur­day in Santa Cruz de la Sierra by an In­ter­pol team. Dis­guised in a false beard and mous­tache, he gave up without a strug­gle, Ital­ian In­te­rior Min­istry sources said.

Jailed in 1979 for be­long­ing to the out­lawed Armed Pro­le­tar­i­ans for Com­mu­nism group, Bat­tisti had been on the run since es­cap­ing prison in 1981. He was 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 shootout that left his 14-year-old son in a wheel­chair in the 1970s.

After es­cap­ing, he lived in France be­fore flee­ing to Brazil in 2004 to avoid ex­tra­di­tion. Bat­tisti, who has a five-year-old Brazil­ian son, lived clan­des­tinely in Brazil un­til he was ar­rested in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. In 2010, left-wing pres­i­dent Luiz Ina­cio Lula da Silva, who is now in prison for cor­rup­tion, is­sued a de­cree — later up­held by Brazil’s Supreme Court — re­fus­ing Bat­tisti’s ex­tra­di­tion to Italy, and he was freed, an­ger­ing Rome.

How­ever, the far-right Jair Bol­sonaro, who took of­fice this month, pledged to re­turn Bat­tisti to Italy. In mid-De­cem­ber Brazil’s out­go­ing pres­i­dent, Michel Te­mer, signed an ex­tra­di­tion de­cree for Bat­tisti after a judge or­dered his ar­rest, but by then he had van­ished again.

Bat­tisti’s lawyers in Brazil filed an emer­gency mo­tion yes­ter­day to try to stay his ex­tra­di­tion, but the pres­i­dent of the coun­try’s Supreme Court, Jose An­to­nio Dias Tof­foli, de­nied it.

Bo­li­vian In­te­rior Min­is­ter Car­los Romero said Bat­tisti had been found on the streets after en­ter­ing Bo­livia il­le­gally.

Ac­cord­ing to Ital­ian gov­ern­ment sources, Bat­tisti was spot­ted “with cer­tainty” in Santa Cruz last week and an op­er­a­tion was pre­pared with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

An In­ter­pol team had tar­geted their search in Santa Cruz be­fore Christ­mas, clos­ing in on the Ital- ian fugi­tive in a few of the city’s neigh­bour­hoods, the lo­cal El De­ber de Santa Cruz news­pa­per said.

Bat­tisti had filed for asy­lum without re­ceiv­ing any re­sponse from au­thor­i­ties, Bo­livia’s om­buds­man said.

He had been hop­ing to find favour with Bo­livia’s left-wing Pres­i­dent, Evo Mo­rales, after say­ing in his asy­lum re­quest that he’d been forced to quit Brazil due to “the omi­nous co­in­ci­dence” that Italy and Brazil were both now run by “far-right” gov­ern­ments.

Mr Salvini thanked Mr Bol­sonaro and the new Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment “with all my heart for the changed po­lit­i­cal cli­mate”. The head of the League party was one of the first top Euro­pean politi­cians to en­dorse Mr Bol­sonaro.

Mr Bol­sonaro’s son, Ed­uardo, tweeted in Ital­ian with a pic­ture of Bat­tisti: “Brazil is no longer the land of ban­dits. Mat­teo Salvini, the ‘lit­tle gift’ is on its way”.

Bat­tisti, who be­came a crime novel writer, said last year that he feared he would be tor­tured and killed if he were sent back to Italy.

AFP

Ce­sare Bat­tisti on the flight back to Italy yes­ter­day

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