News of the arrest of one of Italy’s most wanted men has been welcomed with satisfaction in the country. Cesare Battisti, a former left-wing militant and convicted murderer, was apprehended near Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach. The joint operation involved Italian, French and Brazilian police and reads like the plot of one of the crime novels Battisti became famous for during his time on the run. “He moved around a lot, he changed his mobile sim card regularly. It was difficult to track him down but we have managed it,” said Italian prosecutor Carlo de Stefano.
Battisti escaped jail in Italy in 1981 and took refuge in France, which, under Francois Mitterand, refused to extradite activists who renounced violence. During his time in Paris, Battisti carved out a career as a crime writer. Convicted of four murders in absentia by an italian court, Battisti was forced to flee again in 2004 when French law changed and he lost his right to sanctuary. Victims and their families have voiced their satisfaction at the news of his capture. Alberto Torregiani saw his father shot dead and his own life changed irrevocably by a bullet in his spine. He says he has waited a long time for this day.
“I am the one with the life sentence of being in a wheelchair. The justice system should take over now and make sure that Battisti and others like him serve their time,” he said. Battisti has always protested his innocence. He will be held in jail in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, pending the outcome of an Italian extradition hearing, which takes precedence over a further extradition application by France.