An Italian left-wing guerrilla murderer who spent four decades on the run has landed in Rome today after being expelled from Bolivia, authorities said.
Cesare Battisti escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 while awaiting trial on four counts of murder allegedly committed when he was a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism.
Battisti, now 64, was arrested on Saturday in Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s largest city, where he was located by intelligence agents after using one of his mobile devices.
Return of a killer: Cesare Battisti escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 while awaiting trial on four counts of murder allegedly committed when he was a member of a left-wing guerrilla
Battisti, now 64, was arrested Saturday in Bolivia, and landed in Rome on Monday morning having been extradited yesterday
An Italian military aircraft carrying Battisti landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport shortly after 11.30am local time, as snipers kept watch.
Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede were on hand to turn him over to prison authorities.
‘We’ve got him. And now he’ll have to rot in jail. He’s a communist terrorist. A killer. A coward,’ Salvini said.
Battisti, who was not wearing handcuffs, smiled grimly as he was escorted off the plane by a dozen policemen.
He was expected to be taken to Rome’s Rebibbia jail, where according to media reports he will begin life behind bars with six months solitary confinement.
Battisti is set to serve a life sentence for four murders committed in Italy’s ‘years of lead’ of political violence in the 1970s and 1980s, media reported
Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede address the media after Battisti’s arrival
The bus carrying former Italian communist militant Cesare Battisti is seen before he boards an aircraft, after being arrested, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Italy had repeatedly sought the extradition of the militant, who lived in Brazil for years under the protection of former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, himself now in prison for corruption.
Battisti, 64, was seized late on Saturday in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in an operation carried out by a joint team of Italian and Bolivian officers, Italian state police said.
The fugitive could be seen walking casually about Santa Cruz in sunglasses and a blue T-shirt, in surveillance footage taken hours before his capture. He gave up without a struggle, according to Italian government sources.
Battisti was sentenced to life imprisonment for having killed two Italian policemen, taking part in the murder of a butcher and helping plan the slaying of a jeweller who died in a shootout that left his teenage son in a wheelchair.
‘It’s over, now the victims can rest in peace,’ said Alberto Torregiani, the son of the slain jeweller.
‘It should have happened years ago.’
Battisti is pictured on plnae chartered by Italian government shortly before he took off from Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia
In video footage released by the Italian Police, Battisti walks in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
This photo released by police showing 20 different Cesare Battisti photo-snaps
Battisti has admitted to being part of the Armed Proletarians for Communism, a radical group which staged a string of robberies and attacks, but has always denied responsibility for any deaths, painting himself as a political refugee.
However Rome is determined to punish one of the last figures from Italy’s so-called Years of Lead, a decade of violent turmoil which began in the late 1960s and saw dozens of deadly attacks by hardline leftwing and rightwing groups.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a Facebook post that he had expressed gratitude to Brazil’s recently inaugurated President Jair Bolsonaro in a telephone call.
During his presidential campaign the far-right Bolsonaro – who took office on January 1 – vowed that if elected he would ‘immediately’ send Battisti back to Italy.
Battisti had filed for asylum without receiving any response from authorities, Bolivia’s ombudsman said in an article published in the local El Deber de Santa Cruz newspaper.
During his presidential campaign the far-right Bolsonaro – who took office on January 1 – vowed that if elected he would ‘immediately’ send Battisti back to Italy
Italian police released an image showing Battisti’s mug shot under the seal of the Bolivian police
He had been hoping to find favour with Bolivia’s left-wing President Evo Morales after saying in his asylum request he had been forced to quit Brazil due to ‘the ominous coincidence’ that Italy and Brazil were both now run by ‘far-right’ governments.
Salvini thanked the Italian and foreign police who captured ‘a delinquent who did not deserve the comfortable life on the beach, and who should spend the rest of his days in prison’.
Bolsonaro’s son, Brazilian lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, tweeted in Italian with a picture of Battisti: ‘Brazil is no longer the land of bandits. Matteo Salvini, the ‘little gift’ is on its way.’
Since his jailbreak Battisti had reinvented himself as an author, writing a string of noir novels. In 2004, he skipped bail in France, where he had taken refuge. He then went to live clandestinely in Brazil until he was arrested in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro.
After years in custody, then-president Lula issued a decree – later upheld by Brazil’s Supreme Court – in 2010 refusing Battisti’s extradition to Italy, and he was freed, angering Rome.
Battisti, who has a five-year-old Brazilian son, last year told AFP he faced ‘torture’ and death if he were ever to be sent back to Italy.