For­mer guer­rilla held for re­turn to Italy

The Guardian - - WORLD - An­gela Gi­uf­frida

Ce­sare Bat­tisti, a for­mer left­wing guer­rilla wanted by the Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties for four mur­ders in the late 1970s, has been ar­rested in Bo­livia and is likely to be ex­tra­dited.

The move fol­lowed a pledge to send him home by Jair Bol­sonaro, the new rightwing pres­i­dent of Brazil, where Bat­tisti was liv­ing.

The Ital­ian prime min­is­ter, Giuseppe Conte, sent a gov­ern­ment air­craft to bring Bat­tisti, 63, back to Rome. He praised the Bo­li­vian and Brazil­ian au­thor­i­ties for his overnight cap­ture in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, and said the fugi­tive would be­gin his life sen­tences as soon as he lands on Ital­ian soil. The Cor­riere della Sera news­pa­per re­ported Bat­tisti was wear­ing sun­glasses and a fake beard at the time of his cap­ture.

Bat­tisti was con­victed in Italy in 1979 of be­long­ing to the out­lawed Armed Pro­le­tar­i­ans for Com­mu­nism, and es­caped from prison in 1981. He was con­victed in ab­sen­tia of killing two po­lice of­fi­cers, tak­ing part in the mur­der of a butcher and help­ing to plan the killing of a jeweller. Bat­tisti ad­mit­ted to be­ing part of the group but de­nied re­spon­si­bil­ity for any deaths.

The au­thor­i­ties had been seek­ing his ex­tra­di­tion for years, but the case was given fresh im­pe­tus by the good re­la­tions be­tween Italy’s far-right in­te­rior min­is­ter, Mat­teo Salvini, and Brazil’s new pres­i­dent.

Shortly after Bol­sonaro was elected in Oc­to­ber, he promised Salvini that he would send Bat­tisti back to Italy to serve his term. He said the ex­tra­di­tion of Bat­tisti, whom he de­scribed as a fig­ure “adored by the Brazil­ian left”, would re­flect to the world his gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to fight­ing ter­ror­ism. Bol­sonaro’s son, Ed­uardo, wrote on Twit­ter: “Salvini, a small gift for you is on its way.”

Salvini cel­e­brated by post­ing a photo of Bat­tisti on his Face­book page, cap­tioned “the good times are over”. He added: “My heart­felt thanks to pres­i­dent Jair Mes­sias Bol­sonaro and to the new Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment for the changed po­lit­i­cal cli­mate which, to­gether with a pos­i­tive in­ter­na­tional sce­nario in which Italy has be­come a pro­tag­o­nist, en­abled this tri­umph.”

Bat­tisti had been liv­ing in Cananéia, the south­ern­most city in the state of São Paulo. Be­fore that, he spent al­most two decades on the run in Mex­ico and France, where he was pro­tected by the Mit­ter­rand doc­trine, a 1985 law that of­fered asy­lum to about 100 for­mer Ital­ian guer­ril­las “on the con­di­tion that they with­drew from pol­i­tics”.

In 2004, he took refuge in Brazil, where he lived for three years un­til his ar­rest in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. After four years in cus­tody, the de­part­ing pres­i­dent, Luiz Iná­cio Lula da Silva, is­sued a de­cree re­fus­ing Bat­tisti’s ex­tra­di­tion to Italy, and he was freed.

Bat­tisti was from the cen­tral Ital­ian hill­top town of Ser­mon­eta. He joined mil­i­tants in Mi­lan in the mid-1970s. The Armed Pro­le­tar­i­ans for Com­mu­nism had sought to bring down the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment dur­ing the “years of lead”, a pe­riod of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal tur­moil be­tween the late 1960s and early 1980s marked by ter­ror­ism.

The for­mer left­wing prime min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi wel­comed news of Bat­tisti’s ar­rest: “All Ital­ians, re­gard­less of their po­lit­i­cal dis­tinc­tion, want a mur­derer of this kind to be brought back to our coun­try as soon as pos­si­ble in or­der to serve his sen­tence.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: AP

Brazil’s fed­eral po­lice re­leased this col­lec­tion of 20 dif­fer­ent pass­port­style pic­tures of Ce­sare Bat­tisti

Bat­tisti after his ar­rest in Bo­livia, where he had fled from Brazil

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