Italian militant Battisti arrested after 1981 jailbreak

Italian militant Battisti arrested after 1981 jailbreak
FILE PHOTO: Italian former leftist guerrilla Cesare Battisti leaves the headquarters of Federal Police in Sao Paulo March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo

Italian former leftist guerrilla Cesare Battisti, who has been on the run for almost four decades after being jailed for murder, has been arrested in Bolivia and is expected to be extradited to Italy, officials said on Sunday.

“He will soon arrive in Brazil and from here will be transferred to Italy to serve a life sentence,” Filipe G. Martins, a senior aide on international affairs to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, tweeted.

A plane carrying Italian police and intelligence officers is already on its way to South America, Italy’s Interior Ministry said on Sunday.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, told television he hoped Battisti would be in Italy by the middle of the week.

Battisti, 64, faces life in prison in his home country, where he was convicted of four murders committed in the 1970s. He has denied responsibility for any deaths.

He escaped from prison in 1981 and lived in France before fleeing to Brazil to avoid being extradited.

Battisti, who has a five-year-old Brazilian son, spent years in Brazil, backed by former left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

However, Bolsonaro, who took office this month, has pledged to send him back to Italy. In December a Brazilian Supreme Court judge ordered Battisti’s arrest but by then he had already gone to ground again.

In a statement on Sunday, Salvini thanked the police and all those involved in the capture of Battisti.

“I thank with all my heart the president Jair Bolsonaro and the new Brazilian government for the changed political climate,” he said.

Salvini, head of the right-wing League party which partners the 5-Star Movement in Italy’s ruling coalition, was one of the first top European politicians to endorse the election of Bolsonaro.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella expressed on Sunday his satisfaction over Battisti’s arrest. “We hope Battisti is swiftly handed over to Italian justice,” he said.

Battisti, who has become a successful novel writer, said last year he would face torture and death were he to be sent back to Italy.

His lawyer told Reuters last month that he had filed an appeal against the Brazilian Supreme Court decision, seeking to block another attempt to extradite his client.

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