May 23, 2013
Italy condemns Brazil for not extraditing guerrilla
Italy condemned Brazil for refusing to extradite a former Italian left-wing guerrilla wanted for murder, saying the "shameful" decision violated international agreements and humiliated victims of terrorism.
In a ruling that had been keenly awaited in Italy, Brazil's Supreme Court upheld last year's decision by former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva against extradition of Cesare Battisti and ordered that he be immediately released from prison.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who rarely weighs in on international affairs, issued a strongly worded statement deploring the decision as a "grave wound" in relations with Brazil and said he would support any action to bring Battisti to justice.
Italy has said it will take the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
The former guerrilla had faced life in prison in Italy, where was convicted and sentenced for four murders in the 1970s, a violent period known as the "Years of Lead", when he belonged to a guerrilla group called "Armed Proletarians for Communism".
Battisti escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 and lived in France for years, but fled when Paris approved his extradition in 2006. He was arrested on the run in Brazil.
The Italian government had invested much time and prestige in the extradition process and the decision was a severe blow. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called it "a slap in the face of the whole democratic world that fights terrorism" and that it was "shameful" that Battisti would now be able to sun himself on a Brazilian beach if he wanted to.
Alessandra Mussolini, a parliamentarian who is the granddaughter of wartime dictator Benito Mussolini, called for diplomatic retaliation against Brazil and a national boycott of Brazilian goods.
"They were tough with Italy, treating Battisti as if he were a national hero, and we have to be just as tough with Brazil," she told a radio programme.
The children of some of Battisti's victims expressed horror at the decision."I am speechless," said Alessandro Santoro, son of Antonio Santoro, who worked as the director of a jail in northern Italy when he was killed by Battisti in a 1978 attack by leftist guerrillas. The case has also generated great controversy within Brazil. Human rights activists have asked for Battisti’s release in numerous occasions as Italian pressure for extradition escalated generating numerous diplomatic incidents.