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Timeline: how Cesare Battisti fled Italian justice for almost four decades

Italian former leftist militant Cesare Battisti, wanted in his country for four murders in the 1970s, has been arrested in Bolivia and extradited home after years on the run. Here are the key dates in the saga up to his arrest and extradition.

Timeline: how Cesare Battisti fled Italian justice for almost four decades
Cesare Battisti after being released from jail in Brazil in 2011. Photo: Evaristo SA/AFP

Arrest in Italy

In June 1979 Battisti, a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism, is arrested in Milan as part of an investigation into the murder of a jeweller in the city. He is sentenced in May 1981 to 12 years and 10 months in prison for being a member of an armed group and receiving weapons.

In October the same year he escapes from prison near Rome and flees, first to France and then to Mexico in 1982.

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Novelist in France

In 1985 France's socialist president Francois Mitterrand pledges not to extradite former far-left Italian militants who have turned their back on their past.

Battisti returns to France in 1990 and embarks on a writing career, penning a string of noir novels. In 1991, France rejects an Italian extradition request.


Signing books in Paris in March 2004, shortly before his arrest. Photo: Jean-Loup Gautreau/AFP

On March 31st, 1993, Milan's appeals court convicts Battisti in absentia of killing two Italian policemen, taking part in the murder of a butcher, and having helped plan the slaying of the Milan jeweller who died in a shootout which left his 14-year-old son in a wheelchair.

Italy submits another extradition request in 2002. Two years later, in February, Battisti is arrested in Paris and then released under legal supervision the next month. In June, France says it supports his extradition.

In October 2004 his appeal is rejected, and he flees to Brazil.

Brazilian refuge

Battisti is arrested in Rio de Janeiro on March 18th, 2007, and jailed in Brasilia. Italy again calls for his extradition. But Brazil grants Battisti political asylum on January 14th, 2009.

On November 18 Brazil's Supreme Court authorizes Battisti's extradition but leaves the final decision to the leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who rejects it on December 31st, 2010.

In a letter to the Brazilian parliament in February 2011 Battisti, who is in jail awaiting a new decision from the Supreme Court, denies ever harming or killing another human being.


Battisti at home in Rio di Janiero in 2012. Photo: Christophe Simon/AFP

On June 8th, 2011, Brazil's Supreme Court confirms Lula's decision to refuse the extradition request and Battisti is released.

Italy announces it will make a plea to the International Court of Justice while Brazil grants Battisti a permanent residence permit.

Spectre of extradition

In March 2015 a Brazilian federal judge orders Battisti's extradition either to Mexico or France.

In October 2017 he is placed in preventative detention after he is picked up at the border with Bolivia while trying to leave Brazil. He is quickly freed and returns to Sao Paulo. For the first four months of 2018 he is placed under electronic surveillance.


Battisti at home in Brazil after his 2017 arrest. Photo: Miguel Schincariol/AFP

During Brazil's presidential campaign, far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro vows to “immediately” extradite Battisti to Italy if elected.

In mid-December Brazil's outgoing president signs an extradition order for Battisti after a judge orders his arrest. By then the Italian was nowhere to be found.

Arrest in Bolivia

Battisti is arrested in Bolivia late on January 12th “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 Bolsonaro, who took office on January 1st.

Battisti, 64, is arrested in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Brazilian Federal Police sources tell Brazilian media.


Battisti shortly after his arrest in Bolivia. Photo: Bolivian Police/AFP

“Battisti has been arrested! Democracy is stronger than terrorism!” Italy's ambassador to Brazil Antonio Bernardini tweeted.

Extradited back home

After his arrest, Italy swiftly sends a plane carrying police and secret service agents to Bolivia to bring him back. A day later, an Italian-flagged Falcon 900 plane carrying Battisti lands at Rome's Ciampino airport.

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede are waiting at the airport for his arrival.

Battisti, not wearing handcuffs, is escorted off the plane by a dozen policemen and faces life behind bars. 

Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
 

CRIME

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”

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Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”

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