Rome urges Brazil to reverse Battisti's refugee status

Italy's government has asked Brazilian President Lula da Silva to reconsider his country's decision to grant left-wing activist Cesare Battisti refugee status. Battisti has been avoiding extradition to Italy since fleeing France in 2004.


REUTERS - The Italian foreign ministry Wednesday urged Brazilian President Lula da Silva to reconsider Brazil's decision to grant political refugee status to former far-left activist Cesare Battisti.

"Italy addresses an appeal to President Lula that all initiatives be taken towards ... a review of the judicial decision adopted," the ministry said in a communique.

The statement expressed "great surprise and deep regret" over the decision Tuesday, calling Battisti, 54, a "terrorist responsible for very serious crimes that have nothing to do with political refugee status."

Brazilian Justice Minister Tarso Genro justified the decision by a "well-founded fear" that Battisti would be persecuted for his political opinions.

Italy had sought the extradition of Battisti, who was convicted in absentia in 1993 for four murders during the 1970s when he was part of the Movement of Armed Proletarians for Communism (PAC).

He has denied any wrongdoing.

The Domus Civitas association of victims of terrorism and organised crime also denounced the decision, saying: "We have seen the victory of terrorism in our country ... of humiliation for the victims and disdain (expressed) towards them."

Brazil's decision "shows once more the total insensitivity and lack of respect for our democracy," opposition lawmaker Sabina Rossa told AFP.

Rossa's father was killed by the Red Brigades, active at the same time as PAC during the so-called Years of Lead.

Battisti lived in France for nearly 14 years, fleeing in 2004 to Brazil, where he was arrested in 2007 and held for possible extradition to Italy.

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