ROME (Reuters) – Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini urged French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday to extradite leftist guerrillas who have been hiding out in France for decades to avoid serving prison sentences in Italy.
“I appeal to the French president to return to Italy the fugitives that should not be drinking champagne under the Eiffel tower, but should be rotting in jail in Italy,” Salvini said in an interview with Canale 5 TV.
Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, spoke a day after the return of communist militant Cesare Battisti to Italy from Bolivia to serve a life sentence for his involvement in four murders in the late 1970s.
Battisti, who escaped prison in 1981, had spent more than 15 years in France before fleeing to South America.
There are nine Italian leftist fugitives living in France, according to Rome’s la Repubblica newspaper, including three convicted for playing a role in the 1978 kidnapping of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro.
Macron’s office had no comment, but a French justice ministry spokesman said there was no detailed list of Italian fugitives now living in the country.
“Extradition requests received by the Italian authorities in the coming days will be analysed in detail, on a case-by-case basis, as has been the case for the last 15 years or so,” the spokesman said.
Former French President Francois Mitterrand established what came to be known as the “Mitterrand doctrine” in the mid-1980s, a policy that shielded the militants from extradition because Mitterrand said the Italian justice system was stacked against them. The doctrine was abandoned in the early 2000s.
Italy’s new populist government has regularly criticised Macron over his immigration policy and other issues, casting him as a symbol of the pro-European Union establishment.
Macron in turn said in June that the Italian government’s brand of populism was like “leprosy” spreading across Europe and should be fought.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer, additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey and Michel Rose in Paris; Editing by Mark Heinrich)