Italian Fugitive Set to Be Extradited 28 Years After His Murder Conviction

Italian Fugitive Set to Be Extradited 28 Years After His Murder Conviction

ROME — Italy sent an aircraft to Bolivia on Sunday to pick up the fugitive left-wing militant Cesare Battisti, who was captured there over the weekend, nearly three decades after being convicted of murder.

Italy has repeatedly sought the extradition of Mr. Battisti, and the developments set the stage for the climax to one of Italy’s longest-running efforts to bring a fugitive to justice.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy said that a government aircraft was expected to land Sunday afternoon in Bolivia. The Foreign Ministry vowed to have Mr. Battisti extradited “as quickly as possible.”

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called the fugitive a “delinquent who doesn’t deserve to live comfortably on the beach but rather to finish his days in prison.”

The Bolivian police, working with Italian agents, arrested Mr. Battisti, 64, Saturday night in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the Italian police said. He had lived in Brazil for years, but last month Brazil’s departing president signed a decree ordering his extradition, apparently prompting Mr. Battisti’s latest flight.

The Italian police released a video of the fugitive that they said had been taken hours before his capture, showing him seemingly oblivious to the fact he was under surveillance as he walked casually down a street in jeans, a blue T-shirt and sunglasses. A subsequent image showed Mr. Battisti’s photograph under the seal of the Bolivian police.

Mr. 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 far-left group Armed Proletarians for Communism. He was convicted in absentia in 1990, and faces a life term for the deaths of two police officers, a jeweler and a butcher.

He has acknowledged membership in the group but has denied killing anyone, portraying himself as a political refugee.

Mr. 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 at the time. Like Mr. Battisti, they had fled during Italy’s “years of lead,” a bloody and turbulent era in the 1970s and ’80s when militants on both 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, Mr. Battisti fled to Mexico and then to Brazil to avoid extradition. He was arrested in Rio de Janeiro in 2007, prompting the Italian government to request that he be handed over. But President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva granted him asylum in 2010.

Mr. Battisti was eventually released from jail but was arrested again in 2017 after being 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, Justice Luiz Fux of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court said in December that Interpol had issued a request for Mr. Battisti’s arrest on tax evasion and money-laundering charges, leading him to issue a warrant. Based on that, the departing Brazilian president, Michel Temer, signed the decree ordering the fugitive’s extradition.

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

President Sergio Mattarella of Italy said that Mr. 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.”

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