Italian ex-militant extradited and jailed after decades on run
ROME, Jan 14, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Former communist militant Cesare Battisti,
wanted in Italy for four murders in the 1970s, arrived in Rome on Monday
after an international police squad tracked him down and arrested him in
Jailed in 1979 for belonging to an armed revolutionary group outlawed in
Italy, Battisti escaped from prison two years later, and has spent nearly
four decades on the run.
An Italian-flagged Falcon 900 plane carrying Battisti landed at Rome’s
Ciampino airport on Monday morning.
Battisti, who was not wearing handcuffs, smiled grimly as he was escorted
off the plane by a dozen policemen.
He was expected to be taken to Rome’s Rebibbia jail, where according to
media reports he will begin life behind bars with six months solitary
“In the name of 60 million Italians, I want to thank law enforcement for
having given us this ray of sunlight, this hope, this certainty, this renewed
faith in justice,” Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told
journalists at Ciampino.
“This is not the finish line but the starting point,” Salvini said, citing
the presence of “dozens” of other former militants still on the run in
countries from Latin America to France.
Italy had repeatedly sought the extradition of the Battisti, who lived in
Brazil for years under the protection of former leftist president Luiz Inacio
Lula da Silva, himself now in prison for corruption.
Battisti, 64, was seized late Saturday in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz
de la Sierra in an operation carried out by a joint team of Italian and
Bolivian officers, Italian state police said.
– ‘Rot in jail’ –
The fugitive could be seen walking casually about Santa Cruz in
sunglasses and a blue T-shirt, in surveillance footage taken hours before his
capture. He gave up without a struggle, according to Italian government
Battisti was sentenced to life imprisonment for having killed two Italian
policemen, taking part in the murder of a butcher and helping plan the
slaying of a jeweller who died in a shootout that left his teenage son in a
“It’s over, now the victims can rest in peace,” said Alberto Torregiani,
the son of the slain jeweller.
“It should have happened years ago.”
Battisti has admitted to being part of the Armed Proletarians for
Communism, a radical group which staged a string of robberies and attacks,
but has always denied responsibility for any deaths, painting himself as a
However Rome is determined to punish one of the key figures from Italy’s
so-called Years of Lead, a decade of violent turmoil which began in the late
1960s and saw dozens of deadly attacks by hardline leftwing and rightwing
During his election campaign, Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro –
– who took office on January 1 — vowed that if elected he would
“immediately” send Battisti back to Italy.
Battisti had filed for asylum without receiving any response from
authorities, Bolivia’s ombudsman said in an article published in the local El
Deber de Santa Cruz newspaper.
He had been hoping to find favour with Bolivia’s left-wing President Evo
Morales after saying in his asylum request he had been forced to quit Brazil
due to “the ominous coincidence” that Italy and Brazil were both now run by
“far-right” governments. – ‘Little gift’ –
Bolsonaro’s son, Brazilian lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, tweeted in Italian
with a picture of Battisti: “Brazil is no longer the land of bandits. Matteo
Salvini, the ‘little gift’ is on its way.”
Since his jailbreak Battisti had reinvented himself as an author, writing
a string of noir novels. In 2004, he skipped bail in France, where he had
taken refuge. He then went to live clandestinely in Brazil until he was
arrested in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro.
After years in custody, then-president Lula issued a decree — later
upheld by Brazil’s Supreme Court — in 2010 refusing Battisti’s extradition
to Italy, and he was freed, angering Rome.
Battisti, who has a five-year-old Brazilian son, last year told AFP he
faced “torture” and death if he were ever to be sent back to Italy.