Italian fugitive caught in Bolivia after 40 years on run
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.
Cesare Battisti: Former guerrilla will be extradited.