Italy recalled its Ambassador to Brazil yesterday after Brazil granted political asylum to Cesare Battisti, a terrorist who was convicted in absentia by Italy for murders committed in the 1970s. The Lula government refused to extradite Battisti to Italy.
The London Times reports that Battisti, who wrote crime novels and became a cult figure among intellectuals and the left-wing opposition in Paris, broke the terms of his probation in Paris in 2004 when he failed to appear to his scheduled parole visit after Paris agreed to hand him over to the Italian authorities
In the 1970s he was a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism (PAC), one of several hardline groups — smaller than the better-known Red Brigades — that flourished in Italy during the anni di piombo (“years of lead”). He reinvented himself as a successful crime writer after being granted sanctuary in France in 1990.
After his arrest last year he was released on bail, with an obligation to stay in the Paris area and report to police. However, next month a French appeal court was expected to approve Rome’s request for Signor Battisti’s extradition to Italy, where he faces a life sentence for murder. Police suspect that he may have fled to Latin America, where he lived in the 1980s after escaping arrest in Italy.
Battisti had escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 while awaiting trial on four counts of murder when he was a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism, (Proletari Armati per il Comunismo – PAC).
The French changed their mind extraditing Battisti when Sarkozy was running for office in 2007:
For the Left, Battisti is a hero and victim. The villain is… Nicolas Sarkozy, Interior Minister and conservative favourite for next month’s elections.
“Nicolas Sarkozy has perpetrated a nasty electoral coup,” said Libération [above]. “This is a base act that is unworthy of a generous France.” Sarko, according to Libé and the left in general, staged Battisti’s arrest to win credit as a crime fighter among his law-and-order clientele.
Bertrand Delanoe, the Socialist Mayor of Paris, said France had breached its word to Battisti. Delanoe, by the way, made the Italian an honorary citizen, protected by the city, until he fled. Noel Mamère, a senior Greens politician, said Sarkozy “has sacrificed Battisti’s head on the electoral altar.” And so on.
After fleeing France, Battisti was later arrested in Brazil in 2007,
His arrest was greeted with joy in Italy, but it ignited a quarrel in France, which sheltered him from 1990 until 2002 as one of more than 100 Italian activists who were granted protection by François Mitterrand, the late Socialist President.
In Paris Battisti became a novelist and enjoyed the support of the literary establishment, making the most of the sympathy of the French Left for the “armed struggle” of political activists of the 1970s. He denied murder but never repented for his revolutionary years.
But when President Chirac’s Government abandoned Mitterrand’s policy, Battisti went into hiding and fled to Brazil, seeking to avoid extradition to Italy.
News of his rearrest sparked an outcry from French left-wingers who say that Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister and favourite for the presidency, timed the action to boost his image before the first-round vote on April 22. French police worked closely with Brazilian colleagues to trace Battisti.
asked the Supreme Court on Monday to end extradition proceedings against an Italian fugitive who won political refugee status from the government.
The move by Antonio Fernando Souza was a reversal of his stance in the case of Cesare Battisti — convicted of two murders committed when he was a member of Italy’s Armed Proletarians for Communism in the 1970s.
Souza recommended extradition last year but said in a statement Monday that the case is no longer valid now President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s administration granted Battisti political refugee status.
Which caused The Economist to ask, Why this indulgence for a convicted killer?
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Special thanks to the Baron for the news tip.