A ‘little gift’: Brazil sends fugitive to Italy
A left-wing militant has been captured three decades after a murder conviction
A left-wing Italian militant who spent decades on the run after being convicted of four murders committed in the 1970s was captured in Bolivia and extradited to Italy as a “little gift” from Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to the populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Cesare Battisti, who lived openly for years in Brazil, was arrested on Sunday by local police and an Interpol team as he was walking alone through the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. According to reports he was unarmed and put up no resistance.
He fled Brazil in December after Michel Temer, the outgoing President, authorised a new arrest warrant.
Yesterday, Bolivian police colonel Paul Saavedra said Battisti was in the custody of Intepol officials on a plane that was sent by Italy.
Saavedra said that “the Italian citizen entered Bolivia illegally”. He was located by intelligence agents after using one of his mobile devices.
Battisti, a founder of the far-left Italian radical group Armed Proletarians for Communism, was convicted in absentia in 1993 of four political killings committed in the 1970s and sentenced to life in prison.
The 64-year-old has always maintained his innocence.
Salvini praised Battisti’s arrest and tweeted a caricature of him sitting in a deck chair on the beach with the caption: “The party is over”.
Yesterday Salvini met one of the survivors of a murder for which Battisti was convicted. Alberto Torregiani, who was 15 when his father was shot dead in a February 1979 attack on his jewellery shop by three members of the Communist militant group, said: “After 40 years my parents can now rest in peace.”
Salvini, of the right-wing Lega Party, criticised leftist leaders whom he claimed had protected him.
In 1981 Battisti fled to France, where he received protection under President Franc¸ ois Mitterrand.
When that amnesty was overturned in 2002 he moved to Brazil, where he wrote 15 works of fiction.
Eduardo Bolsonaro, the new Brazilian president’s son, tweeted to Salvini: “Brazil is no longer a land of bandits. The ‘little gift’ is coming.”
Communist militant Cesare Battisti was caught in Bolivia. Photos / AP