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Italian ex-militant Battisti arrested in Bolivia

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Italian ex-militant Battisti arrested in Bolivia
Cesare Battisti was convicted of murder in Italy and has been on the run for decades. Photo: MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL / AFP
08:46 CET+01:00
UPDATED:Cesare Battisti, an Italian sought by Rome for four murders attributed to a far-left group in the 1970s, was in Bolivia and will be extradited to Brazil and then likely to Italy, a senior aide to Brazil's new president said on Sunday.
Italy has repeatedly sought the extradition of Battisti, who has lived in Brazil for years under the protection of former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), now in prison for corruption.
 
"Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti was detained in Bolivia (Saturday night) and will be soon brought to Brazil, from where he will probably be sent to Italy to serve a life sentence," tweeted Filipe G. Martins, a senior aide on international affairs to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
 
During Brazil's recent presidential campaign the far-right Bolsonaro -- who took office on January 1 -- vowed that if elected he would "immediately" extradite Battisti to Italy.
 
In mid-December Brazil's outgoing president, Michel Temer, signed an extradition order for Battisti after a judge ordered his arrest. By then the Italian ex-militant was nowhere to be found.
 
Battisti, 64, was arrested late Saturday in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Brazilian Federal Police sources told Brazilian media. Bolivian officials have not confirmed the reports.
 
Italy's envoy to Brazil fired off a triumphant tweet upon hearing the news. 
 
"Battisti has been arrested! Democracy is stronger than terrorism!" ambassador Antonio Bernardini wrote.
 
Prison fugitive, author
 
Italian authorities on Sunday dispatched a plane carrying police and secret service agents to Bolivia, the interior ministry said, in apparent preparation for a possible extradition.
 
"Now it's necessary to work out if Battisti will make a stopover in Brazil or if he will be brought immediately to Italy. This is a problem that will be decided in the coming hours," the Italian foreign ministry source said.
 
Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini thanked the Italian and foreign police who captured "a delinquent who did not deserve the comfortable life on the beach, and who should spend out the rest of his days in prison."
 
Battisti escaped from an Italian prison after being convicted in 1979 of belonging to an outlawed leftist group, the Armed Proletarians for Communism.
 
He was subsequently convicted in absentia of having killed two Italian policemen, taking part in the murder of a butcher, and helping plan the slaying of a jeweler who died in a shootout which left his 14-year-old son in a wheelchair.
 
Battisti admitted to being part of the group but denied responsibility for any deaths.
 
He reinvented himself as an author and in 2004 skipped bail in France, where he had taken refuge. He went to live clandestinely in Brazil until he was arrested in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro.
 
After years in custody, then-president Lula issued a decree -- later upheld by Brazil's Supreme Court -- in 2010 refusing Battisti's extradition to Italy, and he was freed, angering Italy.
 
Battisti, who has a five-year-old Brazilian son, last year told AFP he faced "torture" and death if he were ever to be sent back to Italy.
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