Latest update: 31/12/2010
- Brazil - Cesare Battisti - Italy - terrorism
Lula leaves Battisti ruling to last day in office
Brazilian President Lula da Silva is to rule on the fate of convicted Italian former militant Cesare Battisti on Friday, the last day of his historic presidency. Italy said Thursday that refusing to extradite him would be “unacceptable”.
By NEWS WIRES (text)
REUTERS - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Thursday it would be unacceptable if former left-wing guerrilla Cesare Battisti were not extradited from Brazil on murder convictions dating from the 1970s.
Brazilian media said on Wednesday President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had decided not to extradite Battisti, although there was no confirmation from the government.
Berlusconi's office said in a statement possible concern about a deterioration in Battisti's well-being if he were extradited to Italy might have affected Lula's decision, which it intended to declare "incomprehensible and unacceptable".
"President Lula will have to explain that choice, not only to the Italian government, but to all Italians and in particular the families of victims," it added.
Brazil's Supreme Court ruled last year that Battisti would be extradited for murders committed during Italy's so-called "Years of Lead" in the 1970s, when far-left groups carried out a campaign of kidnappings and assassinations.
It left a final decision to Lula, who granted Battisti refugee status in 2009 and who ends his second term on Jan. 1. Earlier in the week, Lula said he would decide by Friday. His aides said on Wednesday there was no formal decision yet.
Battisti denies the accusations and says he is being persecuted politically in Italy.
Earlier on Thursday, a senior Italian minister was quoted as saying relations with Brazil would be seriously damaged if Battisti was not extradited.
"No one should imagine that a 'no' to the extradition of Cesare Battisti would be without consequences," Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
"I would consider it a great injury to bilateral relations."
La Russa, on the right wing of the ruling People of Freedom party, is considered close to Berlusconi but it was not clear how far his opinion reflected government policy.
"As far as I am concerned, I am ready to take other initiatives," he said.
He gave no specific examples but said he would be prepared to support unspecified boycotts of Brazil.
However he said a military cooperation agreement with Brazil, due to be approved in parliament on Jan. 11 was too far advanced to be affected.
"It's late for that. The government has already done what it has to, the rest is up to parliament," he said.
Battisti escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 and lived in France for years, but fled when Paris approved his extradition in 2006. He was arrested in Brazil.