Fugitive Italian arrested in Bolivia, faces extradition
ROME: Cesare Battisti, a far-left militant who has been on the run for nearly 40 years, should be quickly repatriated to serve a life sentence for murder, the Italian government said on Sunday, hours after the man’s arrest in Bolivia.
Battisti, 64, was a member of Italian terrorist group Armed Proletarians for Communism. Arrested in 1979, he evaded prison in 1981 and, between 1990 and 1993, was convicted in absentia of four political killings committed in the 1970s.
“Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti was captured tonight in Bolivia,” Felipe Martins, special adviser for international affairs to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, wrote on Twitter late on Saturday.
He added that the Italian would be taken to Brazil first before ‘‘probably” being sent to Italy.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wrote on Facebook that an official Italian plane was on its way to Bolivia “with the aim of taking Battisti and bringing him back to Italy. Our jails here are waiting for him.”
Before Bolivia, Battisti spent time in Brazil, France and Mexico. He became a fugitive from Brazilian justice in December, after judges ordered his arrest and newly-elected President Bolsonaro said he was going to extradite him as a “little gift” to Italy.
Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, who is a lawmaker in the Chamber of Deputies, celebrated the arrest on Twitter.
“Brazil is no longer the land of outlaws. @matteosalvinimi, the ‘little gift’ is on his way,” he wrote addressing Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
“A heartfelt thanks to President Jair Bolsonaro,” Salvini wrote on Facebook, calling Battisti “a criminal who does not deserve a comfortable life at the beach, but to end his days in jail.”
“Battisti caught! Democracy is stronger than terrorism,” rejoiced Italian Ambassador to Brazil Antonio Bernardini on Twitter.
Italian interior ministry sources said Italian and Brazilian police located Battisti in Bolivia a week ago, and caught him overnight in the town of Santa Cruz. He was unarmed, did not resist the arrest,and showed officers a Brazilian document confirming his identity.
Italian police released a video of the fugitive walking down a street, sporting sunglasses and a goatee beard, shortly before his arrest. There was no sign of a fake beard, as reported by Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
Bolsonaro, a right-winger, has accused his left-wing predecessors Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Roussef of shielding Battisti from justice. Lula turned down an extradition request from Italy in2010, and Brazil’s supreme court confirmed the decision in 2011.
Battisti was not a prominent figure during Italy’s so-called Years of Lead, a period which lasted from the late 1960s to the late 1980s during which hundreds of people were killed by leftand right-wing terrorists.
But his perceived arrogance and unwillingness to face justice has made him a hate figure among Italian public opinion. In the 1990s, while on the run in France, he started a career as a crime novelist,and counted many leftwing intellectuals among his friends.
Battisti has maintained his innocence over murder charges, while he has admitted the crime of political subversion. He has said that his prison escape in 1981 was motived by fear of being tortured or killed while in custody.