Italian fugitive Cesare Battisti caught in Bolivia after decades on the run

A fugitive communist militant has been caught in Bolivia after years of freedom abroad.

Cesare Battisti escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 while awaiting trial on four counts of murder committed when he was a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism.

He was convicted in absentia in 1990 of the murders of two policemen, having a role in the killing of a butcher and planning the murder of a jeweller who died in a shootout.

The 64-year-old denied the killings but admitted membership of the group.

Cesare Battisti has been on the run for years
Image:
Cesare Battisti has been on the run for years

After fleeing Italy, he took refuge in France and reinvented himself as an author writing noir novels. He left France for Brazil in 2004, but was arrested in Rio de Janeiro in 2007.

He spent years in custody but in 2010, then president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva refused Italy’s extradition request and freed him.

An incoming right-wing government in Brazil prompted Battisti to move on again, and he was captured in Bolivia.

The daily newspaper Corriere della Silva noted he had grown a beard and moustache, perhaps as a disguise, when he was arrested in the street by an Interpol squad.

During the presidential campaign, Jair Bolsonaro vowed to immediately extradite Battisti. He took office on 1 January, two weeks after the outgoing president Michel Temer signed an extradition order for Battisti.

An Italian interior minister said: “Battisti was arrested in the street, unarmed and he didn’t resist, responded to police in Portuguese and showed a Brazilian document confirming his identity.

“Now Italy is waiting for him.”

The arrest was a joint effort between Italy and Bolivia, with the help of Italy’s counter-terror officers.

Cesare Battisti stands in front of a Bolivia Police sign as he is arrested
Image:
Cesare Battisti stands in front of a Bolivia Police sign as he is arrested

Filipe G. Martins, a senior aide on international affairs to Brazilian President Bolsonaro, tweeted: “Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti was detained in Bolivia (Saturday night) and will be soon brought to Brazil, from where he will probably be sent to Italy to serve a life sentence.”

Italy’s envoy to Brazil Antonio Bernardini tweeted: “Battisti has been arrested! Democracy is stronger than terrorism!”

Italian authorities have sent a plane carrying police and secret service agents to Bolivia to prepare for extradition.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini praised those involved and called Battisti “delinquent who doesn’t deserve to live comfortably on the beach but rather to finish his days in prison”.

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