Brazil rejects Battisti extradition

Anger in Italy over president's decision on his last day in office not to extradite former Italian left-wing radical.

    Lula's decision was met with immediate condemnation from Italy [Reuters]

    Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, has announced that he will grant an amnesty to Cesare Battisti, a former Italian leftist radical wanted in his home country.

    The decision on Friday not to extradite the convicted murderer overrules a decision made last year by Brazil's highest court.

    The president's announcement, made the day before he is due to leave office, was met with immediate condemnation from Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, who said that his country will explore ways to reverse the move.

    Berlusconi's office had previously said that a decision against extradition would be "incomprehensible and unacceptable".

    A statement released by Lula's office said that the president's decision had taken into consideration a section of the extradition treaty that allows the government to consider an amnesty petitioner's "personal condition".

    Battisti, a former member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism, was convicted in Italy for the murders of two policemen, a jeweller and a butcher between 1977 and 1979.

    He escaped from prison and fled to France in 1981, then escaped again in 2004 after the government there changed its policy of tacitly allowing Italian radicals to remain in the country if they renounced their previous ideologies.

    Battisti has always maintained his innocence.

    He was arrested in Brazil in 2007, where he was convicted and given a short sentence for entering the country illegally.

    Celso Amorim, Brazil's outgoing foreign minister, said that Lula's decision was "a sovereign one" and would not damage relations with Italy.

    Another government minister, speaking anonymously, told the Reuters news agency that Berlusconi was only speaking in harsh terms for his domestic audience.

    Brazil's highest court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal, ruled in a 5-4 decision in November 2009 that Battisti should be extradited to Italy.

    It remains unclear whether the court will be able to overrule Lula's decision.

    Battisti has been held since 2007 and will probably remain jailed until the court renders a final decision.

    Dilma Rousseff, Lula's successor, could also conceivably reach a different decision.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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