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Arrest of Italian fugitive Battisti ordered by Brazilian judge

Italian former leftist guerrilla Cesare Battisti in 2015
Italian former leftist guerrilla Cesare Battisti in 2015   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo   -   REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo
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A judge from the Brazilian Supreme Court has ordered on Thursday the arrest of Italian former left-wing guerrilla Cesare Battisti, opening the way for his extradition, according to reports.

Battisti, 63, faces life in prison in Italy, where he was convicted of four murders committed in the 1970s, when he belonged to a guerrilla group called Armed Proletarians for Communism.

Battisti was granted an injunction preventing his extradition last year, which was revoked by Justice Luiz Fux as he ruled it was up to Brazil's president to decide his fate, according to reports.

"I intimate the order to arrest Italian citizen Cesare Battisti in preparation for his extradition", judge Fux wrote in his prescription, seen by AFP.

Battisti's lawyer, Igor Tamasauskas, told Reuters he had received the decision, saying that although he had not yet read it, he believed his client's arrest had been ordered.

Italy has long sought Battisti's extradition.

Battisti escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 and lived in France before fleeing to Brazil to avoid being extradited.

Italy almost obtained his extradition in 2010 but Brazil's then-president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, granted him asylum on his last day in office that year.

Brazil's incoming far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who takes office on January 1, has declared he will extradite Battisti immediately after he takes office. "We will show to the world our commitment to fighting terrorism", Bolsonaro said in October, while describing Battisti as a figure "adored by the Brazilian left".

In October, shortly after Bolsonaro's election, Italian Interior minister Matteo Salvini called for Brazil to grant Battisti's extradition.

"After years of talks, I will ask that the red terrorist Battisti is sent back to Italy", he tweeted.

Fux's injunction, which upheld Battisti's asylum status, prevented the current centrist government of President Michel Temer from extraditing him.

That decision came after Battisti was caught trying to cross the border into Bolivia in 2017 and arrested for having large amounts of undeclared cash — R$ 10,000 (€ 2,265).

The extradition should be a presidential decision, Fux has now decided, since the Supreme Court had already ruled for Battisti to be sent back to Italy in 2009.

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