- Brazil - Cesare Battisti - Italy - justice
Supreme court backs extradition of ex-militant Battisti
Brazil's supreme court has decided to grant the extradition of an Italian ex-militant wanted for multiple murders, Cesare Battisti. The court will decide whether or not President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will have the final say in the case.
AFP - Brazil's supreme court on Wednesday voted to extradite an Italian ex-militant, Cesare Battisti, wanted for multiple murders dating from the 1970s, despite a government order granting him political asylum.
The court was continuing constitutional deliberations to decide whether its verdict was final, or whether President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva should have the final say in the case.
Chief justice Gilmar Mendes cast the decisive vote, breaking a deadlock among his eight colleagues that had dragged the extradition hearing out over more than two months.
He stated that the murders of four people for which Battisti had been convicted in absentia by Italy were essentially "common" crimes rather than political acts that might be protected under the government's refugee order granted in January.
As a result, Battisti, 54, should be extradited to Italy, he said.
"Certain types of crimes, even if they have political aims, cannot be considered political crimes. Otherwise, we could start to see cases of rape, pedophilia or torture treated as political crimes," he said in his televised judgement.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini expressed his "great satisfaction" at the decision by Brazil's supreme court.
Italy considers Battisti a "terrorist" for his membership in the Armed Proletariat for Communism, a radical and armed left-wing group that murdered several people in the 1970s. He was found guilty of killing a prison guard, a special investigator of terrorist groups, a butcher and a jeweler targeted by the group in that period.
Battisti, who had been on the run in France, Mexico and Brazil for the past three decades, faces life in prison in Italy under the sentence there already delivered against him.
Battisti has repeatedly said he is innocent of the murder charges.
He started a hunger strike in his Brasilia prison cell last weekend as "a last desperate act" in an attempt to prevent his extradition.
The Italian, who made a career as a successful crime writer after renouncing his militant past, initially took refuge in France for 14 years, with a brief stay during that period in Mexico.
When France changed laws protecting him and other repentant former foreign militants, he went to Rio de Janeiro in 2004 on a false passport.
He was arrested there three years later at Italy's request, and has been in detention in Brasilia since.