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Italy irked that Brazil frees fugitive

Italy irked that Brazil frees fugitive

Italy is considering mounting a legal fight to reverse the refugee status granted by Brazil to a leftist fugitive sentenced to life in prison by an Italian court for political slayings, officials said Thursday.
Foreign ministry spokesman Pasquale Ferrara said Italy was looking into all the "political and technical strategies" to reverse the decision concerning Cesare Battisti. Specifically, Italy believes it may be able to mount a possible recourse to Brazil's Supreme Court to reverse the decision, Ferrara was quoted as saying by the ANSA and Apcom news agencies.
Brazil's justice minister decided Tuesday that Battisti, an Italian, should be allowed to stay in Brazil because of fears of persecution if he is extradited to Italy. Brazilian law also forbids the extradition of foreigners who face more than 30 years in prison.
The decision sparked disbelief in Italy. Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said Thursday the suggestion that Battisti could be persecuted in Italy was "offensive" and "seriously puts at risk the friendship between our two countries."
Battisti will be freed as soon as a Brazilian Supreme Court justice approves a release order. Brazilian police had arrested him in November 2007 based on Italy's request to Interpol.
Battisti, 54, escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 while awaiting trial on four counts of murder allegedly committed in Italy when he was a member of the far-left group, the Armed Proletarians for Communism, which was disbanded in the late 1970s.
An Italian court convicted him in absentia and sentenced him to life in prison for the murders of a prison guard and a butcher in the late 1970s. He has not been tried for the two others involving a police officer and a jeweler in which he is charged as an accomplice.
He has denied he killed anyone.
While on the lam, Battisti lived in Mexico and France, where he reinvented himself as a mystery writer and published a string of novels. Authorities believe Battisti fled to Brazil in 2004 after France changed its tacit policy of allowing Italian militants to remain in the country if they renounced their militant ways.
In addition to the legal fight, Italy is also considering requesting that Brazil's Justice Ministry itself reverse the decision, Justice Minister Angelino Alfano said Thursday. He said he was "disappointed, surprised and embittered" by the decision, but not resigned.
"We will do everything in our possibility," he told RAI state radio. "And we will also weigh strongly the political fact that if countries like Brazil want to contribute to global democracy, by participating in the G-8, they can't consider ... violating judiciary decisions established by other countries. The world's democracies have to collaborate even on this."
A spokesperson for Brazil's Supreme Court said that as of Thursday afternoon, the court had not been notified of the government's decision to grant him refugee status, which is needed before he can be released.
On Thursday, Battisti's three lawyers visited him in the Papuda prison, in Brasilia. He expressed relief after learning of the decision and told his lawyers he would resume his career as a writer, said Camilo Toscano, a spokesman for the law firm representing Battisti.
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Associated Press reporter Marco Sibaja contributed to this report from Brasilia, Brazil.


Updated : 2021-04-22 02:09 GMT+08:00