Italy jails former activist for homicides after 38-year search

Italian authorities on Monday received former activist Cesare Battisti from Bolivia to begin serving a life sentence after his capture over the weekend.

Former far-left militant Cesare Battisti arrives in Rome Monday, escorted by Italian police. Photo by Ettore Ferrari/
Former far-left militant Cesare Battisti arrives in Rome Monday, escorted by Italian police. Photo by Ettore Ferrari/

Battisti, who was sentenced in absentia for four homicides in the 1970s, was taken to the Oristano high security prison on the island of Sardinia, La Repubblica newspaper reported
“Now I know that I will go to prison,” he said after reaching the airport. Italian Primer Minister Matteo Salvini was among the authorities waiting for him.

“My father can now rest in peace,” said Adriano Sabbadin, a son of one of the victims of the radical group to which Battisti belonged. Battisti had admitted to being a left wing activist, but denied participation in any crimes.
Battisti, 64, was sentenced in absentia in the 1980s for two deaths and being an accomplice in another two, all part of radical left wing activities in the 1970s. Battisti lived freely in Brazil for several years while the left-oriented Workers Party was in power, but his situation changed last year after the country’s new elections.

Brzilian President Jair Bolsonaro promised he would extradite Bolsonaro as soon as he took office. In December, Brazilian police said Battisti was at large and could not be located. He escaped an Italian jail nearly four decades ago while awaiting trial. In Brazil he wrote several crime novels.

Battisti previously lived in France under a safe-haven offer from former French President Francois Mitterrand to activists who’d renounced violence. France previously rejected an Italian extradition request in 1991.
Italian prosecutors said the capture was the result of intelligence work involving high-level technology, according to La Repubblica. A Bolivian newspaper reported authorities knew of his location because he’d sought asylum there.

Bolivia’s El Deber newspaper reported Monday Battisti arrived to Bolivia last month and sought political asylum. Without obtaining an answer, he was detained Saturday and handed over to Italian authorities. He reached Italy Monday on a direct flight, despite a request by Brazil of a stopover in Brasilia.

Politicians affiliated with the Movement to Socialism Party, led by Bolivian President Evo Morales, criticized the government action and said Battisti’s rights were violated by Bolivia, El Deber reported.

ByRenzo Pipoli