Bolivia extradites Italian fugitive on the run for 37 years

A chartered plane carrying an Italian far-left militant arrested in Bolivia late on Saturday for four political murders he committed in the 1970s landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport, above, multiple agencies report.

Cesare Battisti, 64, who has been on the run for nearly four decades, faces life in jail.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Justice Minister Alfredo Bonafede were present at the airport to escort him to a prison in Rome.

As Battisti disembarked from the government’s Falcon 900 plane along with 10 police officers, rain clouds were gathering in the sky.

Battisti was arrested by a special Interpol squad in Santa Cruz city at 5pm as he was walking down a street unarmed, wearing sunglasses. He did not resist arrest and readily showed his ID document issued by Brazil.

After prison escape in 1981, Battisti spent some time in Mexico and France where he transformed himself into a crime novelist. In Brazil, he lived for years as a refugee under the protection of former left-wing presidents, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Roussef. Lula rejected Rome’s extradition request in 2010, a move supported by the Supreme Court in 2011.

Battisti illegally entered Bolivia in December last year after Brazilian judges ordered his arrest and the newly-elected right-wing government led by President Jair Bolsonar made its intentions clear to extradite him to Rome.

Italy’s right wing government thanked the Bolivian authorities and Bolsonar for facilitating Battisti’s arrest.  For years, Italy has been waiting for this wanted man, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said. Bolsonar described Battisti’s extradition as Brazil’s “little gift” to Italy.

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said a criminal like Battisti deserves life in jail and not at the beach.

Battisti was a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism involved in political killings between late 1960s and early 1980s. Although not a leader of the group, he was hated by Italians for evading law for decades after playing a role in the murders of two policemen, a butcher and a jeweller.

Battisti feared he would be tortured and killed in Italy if he returned.