One of Italy’s most wanted fugitives detained in Brazil after 30 years on the run

Brazilian police have detained Cesare Battisti, a left-wing Italian militant and author who was convicted of murder in his home country and has been on the run for decades.

One of Italy's most wanted fugitives detained in Brazil after 30 years on the run
Cesare Battisti leaving court in Rio de Janeiro on December 10, 2009. Photo: Antonio Scorza/AFP.

Battisti apparently tried to leave Brazil for Bolivia amid reports that Italy had recently asked the Brazilian government to revoke his asylum status and deport him to his home country, where he faces life in prison.

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said in a tweet on Thursday that he was working with Rome's ambassador to Brazil to “bring Battisti back to Italy and hand him over to justice”.

Battisti was stopped by highway police on Wednesday night as he attempted to cross the Brazilian-Bolivian border in a taxi. He was detained for carrying undeclared foreign currency, according to a police statement.

Battisti, 62, is wanted in Italy for the murders of four people in the 1970s, when he belonged to an armed Marxist group called Armed Proletarians for Communism. 

He has spent some 30 years on the run after escaping from an Italian prison in 1981. He fled first to France, where he wrote a series of crime novels, before moving to Brazil in 2004 when it appeared he could face extradition to Italy.

Cesare Battisti in February 2012. Photo: Christophe Simon/AFP

Cesare Battisti in February 2012. Photo: Christophe Simon/AFP

He lived there in secret before being arrested in Rio de Janeiro in 2007. After four years in confinement, Battisti was released in 2011 and given permanent residency in Brazil.

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva granted Battisti refugee status on his last day of office in 2010, a move that sparked a diplomatic row between Italy and Brazil.

The Italian government last week asked Brazil to reconsider its decision not to extradite Battisti, according to Brazilian newspaper O Globo

Italian politicians welcomed Battisti's detention and called for his return to Italy. 

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi described Battisti as “a terrorist, a criminal” and called on Brazil to extradite him so that he could pay for his actions in prison.

“That, simply, is called justice,” Renzi wrote on Facebook. 


Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

Italy commemorated the death of Italian judge Giovanni Falcone on Monday, thirty years after the brutal Capaci bombing.

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

The entire country paid tribute on Monday to anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, killed by the Sicilian mafia 30 years ago in a car bomb murder that shocked the country.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese laid a wreath at the memorial at the site of the blast at Capaci, near Palermo, that killed Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort on May 23rd 1992.

Another ceremony in Palermo was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whose brother Piersanti, then Sicily’s regional president, was also murdered by the mafia.

In a statement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed the legacy of Falcone, saying that thanks to his “courage, professionalism and determination, Italy has become a freer and fairer country”.

He said Falcone and his colleagues – one of whom, Paolo Borsellino, was killed by Cosa Nostra two months later – “dealt decisive blows against the mafia”.

“Their heroism had rooted anti-mafia values in society, in new generations, in republican institutions,” he added, saying the “relentless fight against organised crime and […] the search for truth” must continue.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogramme (1100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend. At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

READ ALSO: How murdered judge Giovanni Falcone shaped Italy’s fight against the mafia

On July 19th, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Falcone posed a real threat to Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by The Godfather trilogy, and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

He and Borsellino were later credited with revolutionising the understanding of the mafia, working closely with the first informants and compiling evidence for a groundbreaking ‘maxi-trial’ in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

“Thanks to Falcone and Borsellino, the Sicilian mafia became a notorious fact, not something that had to be proved to exist at every trial,” anti-mafia prosecutor Marzia Sabella told AFP.