Italy cap­tures fugi­tive ex-mil­i­tant in Bo­livia to end 30-year pur­suit

● Ce­sare Bat­tisti fac­ing jus­tice three decades af­ter his mur­der con­vic­tion

The Scotsman - - World News - By NI­COLE WIN­FIELD

sent an air­craft to Bo­livia yes­ter­day to pick up fugi­tive left-wing mil­i­tant Ce­sare Bat­tisti, who was cap­tured there nearly three decades af­ter be­ing con­victed of mur­der.

The devel­op­ment sets the stage for a cli­max to one of Italy’s long­est-run­ning ef­forts to bring a fugi­tive to jus­tice.

Bo­li­vian po­lice, work­ing with Ital­ian agents, ar­rested Bat­tisti, 64, overnight in Santa Cruz de La Sierra, Ital­ian po­lice said.

He had been liv­ing in Brazil for years, but last month Brazil’s out­go­ing pres­i­dent signed a de­cree or­der­ing his ex­tra­di­tion, ap­par­ently spark­ing Bat­tisti’s lat­est flight.

Ital­ian po­lice re­leased a video of Bat­tisti they said was taken hours be­fore his cap­ture, show­ing him seem­ingly obliv­i­ous that he was un­der sur­veil­lance as he walked ca­su­ally down the street in jeans, a blue T-shirt and sun­glasses.

A sub­se­quent im­age showed Bat­tisti’s mug shot un­der the seal of the Bo­li­vian po­lice.

Ital­ian pre­mier Giuseppe Conte said a gov­ern­ment air­craft was ex­pected to land in Bo­livia yes­ter­day.

The for­eign min­istry vowed to have Bat­tisti ex­tra­dited “as quickly as pos­si­ble” and in­te­rior min­is­ter Mat­teo Salvini called him 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 com­mit­ted when he was a mem­ber of the Armed Pro­le­tar­i­ans for Com­mu­nism.

He was con­victed in ab­sen­i­taly

tia in 1990, and is fac­ing a life term for the deaths of two po­lice of­fi­cers, a jew­eller and a butcher.

Bat­tisti has ac­knowl­edged mem­ber­ship in the group but has de­nied killing any­one and has painted him­self as a po­lit­i­cal refugee.

Bat­tisti ini­tially fled to France, where he joined a group of dozens of left-wing Ital­ian mil­i­tants who en­joyed of­fi­cial pro­tec­tion from France’s So­cial­ist gov­ern­ment.

Like Bat­tisti, they had fled dur­ing Italy’s “years of lead,” a bloody and tur­bu­lent era in the 1970s and 1980s when mil­i­tants on the left and right car­ried out bomb­ings, as­sas­si­na­tions and other vi­o­lence aimed at bring­ing down the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment.

Af­ter the po­lit­i­cal winds changed in France, Bat­tisti fled to Mex­ico be­fore es­cap­ing to Brazil to avoid be­ing ex­tra­dited.

He was ar­rested in Rio de Janeiro in 2007, prompt­ing the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment to re­quest that he be handed over. But for­mer Brazil­ian Pres­i­dent Luiz Ina­cio Lula da Silva granted him asy­lum in 2010.

Bat­tisti was even­tu­ally re­leased from jail but was ar­rested again in 2017 af­ter he was caught try­ing to cross the Brazil-bo­livia bor­der car­ry­ing the equiv­a­lent of about $7,500 in un­de­clared cash. He was re­leased af­ter a few days.

As a re­sult of that in­ci­dent, Brazil­ian Supreme Fed­eral Tri­bunal Jus­tice Luiz Fux said in De­cem­ber that In­ter­pol had is­sued a re­quest for Bat­tisti’s ar­rest on tax eva­sion and money laun­der­ing charges, lead­ing him to is­sue a Brazil­ian war­rant.

Based on that, out­go­ing Brazil­ian Pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer signed the de­cree or­der­ing the fugi­tive’s ex­tra­di­tion.

Salvini praised Bo­li­vian po­lice and Brazil’s new gov­ern­ment for fol­low­ing through on the fugi­tive’s case.

Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mattarella said Bat­tisti should be re­turned to Italy to “serve his sen­tence for the grave crimes that stained Italy and let the same be said for all fugi­tives abroad”.

The Ital­ian am­bas­sador to Brazil, An­to­nio Bernar­dini, tweeted: “Bat­tisti has been cap­tured. Democ­racy is stronger than ter­ror­ism.”

0 Ce­sare Bat­tisti is ex­pected to be ex­tra­dited to serve his sen­tence in Italy af­ter Brazil­ian and Bo­li­vian po­lice worked to­gether to cap­ture him.

0 Ce­sare Bat­tisti has been liv­ing in Mex­ico and Brazil

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