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Brazil will not Extradite Italian Former Guerrilla

November 20th, 2009
Cesare Battisti

Cesare Battisti

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is not thinking of extraditing Italian former guerrilla Cesare Battisti despite a Supreme Court ruling that he should be sent home, a high-ranking government source said on Thursday.

Brazil’s top court ruled on Wednesday that Battisti should be extradited on murder convictions from the 1970s in Italy, but it left the final decision to Lula who granted him refugee status early this year.

The source, who did not want to be identified, said Lula was in no hurry to announce his decision and that the government would seek more judicial arguments to back up its view that Battisti should be allowed asylum in Brazil.

Lula’s decision to give Battisti refugee status in January strained ties between the two countries, with Italy briefly withdrawing its ambassador to Brazil.

But Brazilian government sources said the subject was not raised by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi during a lunch with Lula in Rome earlier this week.

Lula’s decision to grant Battisti refugee status was based on a recommendation from Justice Minister Tarso Genro, a leftist who argued the Italian activist was being targeted for his past political views. Battisti denies the murders.

Another government source said Lula did not want to undermine Genro, an important political ally, as Lula’s ruling Workers’ Party faces presidential and congressional elections next year.

A lawyer for Battisti, Luis Roberto Barroso, said Brazil could refuse to extradite the Italian without breaking the terms of an extradition treaty between the nations. He said the treaty allowed for exceptions in cases where there is a risk of persecution in the destination country.

“There is a climate in Italy that is not propitious for receiving Battisti with serenity and human dignity,” Barroso told Reuters.

Battisti risks life in prison in Italy for the 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, 54, 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.

Battisti, who reinvented himself as a novel writer, announced last week he had gone on hunger strike and he sent a letter to Lula last week saying he was ready to die in Brazil rather than be sent back to Italy.

(Writing by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Chris Wilson)

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