Ital­ian fugi­tive caught in Bo­livia after 40 years on run

Irish Examiner - - World - Stephen Jewkes

Ital­ian for­mer left­ist guer­rilla Ce­sare Bat­tisti, who has been on the run for al­most four decades after be­ing jailed for mur­der, has been ar­rested in Bo­livia and is to be ex­tra­dited to Italy, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day.

Italy praised Bo­livia over the cap­ture of the fugi­tive com­mu­nist mil­i­tant, and of­fi­cials in Rome vowed that he will “fin­ish his days in prison” to serve mur­der con­vic­tions dat­ing from 1990.

Bo­li­vian po­lice seized Bat- overnight. The Ital­ian am­bas­sador to Brazil, An­to­nio Bernar­dini, tweeted: “Bat­tisti has been cap­tured. Democ­racy is stronger than ter­ror­ism.”

In­te­rior min­is­ter Mat­teo Salvini praised Bo­li­vian po­lice and Brazil’s gov­ern­ment. He called Bat­tisti a “delin­quent who doesn’t de­serve to live com­fort­ably on the beach but rather to fin­ish his days in prison”.

Bat­tisti es­caped from an Ital­ian prison in 1981 while await­ing trial on four counts of mur­der al­legedly com- mit­ted when he was a mem­ber of the Armed Pro­le­tar­i­ans for Com­mu­nism. He was con­victed in ab­sen­tia in 1990.

He has ac­knowl­edged mem­ber­ship of the group, but has de­nied killing any­one. Mr Salvini, who is also deputy prime min­is­ter, said on tele­vi­sion he hoped Bat­tisti would be in Italy by the mid­dle of the week.

Bat­tisti, 64, faces life in prison in his home coun­try, where he was con­victed of four mur­ders com­mit­ted in the 1970s. He has de­nied retisti spon­si­bil­ity for any deaths.

He es­caped from prison in 1981 and lived in France be­fore flee­ing to Brazil to avoid be­ing ex­tra­dited.

Bat­tisti, who has a fiveyear-old Brazil­ian son, spent years in Brazil, backed by for­mer left-wing pres­i­dent Luiz Ina­cio Lula da Silva.

How­ever, Brazil’s new pres­i­dent, Jair Bol­sonaro, has pledged to send him back to Italy. In De­cem­ber, a Brazil­ian Supreme Court judge or­dered Bat­tisti’s ar­rest but by then he had al­ready gone to ground again.

In a state­ment, Mr Salvini thanked the po­lice and all those in­volved in the cap­ture of Bat­tisti.

“I thank with all my heart the pres­i­dent Jair Bol­sonaro and the new Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment for the changed po­lit­i­cal cli­mate,” he said.

Mr Salvini, head of the right-wing North­ern League party which part­ners the Five-Star Move­ment in Italy’s rul­ing coali­tion, was one of the first top Euro­pean politi­cians to en­dorse the elec­tion of Mr Bol­sonaro.

Ital­ian pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mattarella ex­pressed his sat­is­fac­tion yes­ter­day over Bat­tisti’s ar­rest.

“We hope Bat­tisti is swiftly handed over to Ital­ian jus­tice,” he said.

Bat­tisti, who has be­come a suc­cess­ful nov­el­ist, said last year he would face tor­ture and death were he to be sent back to Italy.

His lawyer told Reuters last month that he had filed an ap­peal against the Brazil­ian Supreme Court de­ci­sion, seek­ing to block an­other at­tempt to ex­tra­dite his client.

Pic­ture: AP

Ce­sare Bat­tisti: For­mer guer­rilla will be ex­tra­dited.

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