Former revolutionary arrested in Brazil

19th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

BRASILIA, March 18, 2007 (AFP) - Cesare Battisti, a former Italian communist revolutionary who went into hiding two and a half years ago, was arrested Sunday in a Rio de Janeiro hotel, Brazilian police said.

BRASILIA, March 18, 2007 (AFP) - Cesare Battisti, a former Italian communist revolutionary who went into hiding two and a half years ago, was arrested Sunday in a Rio de Janeiro hotel, Brazilian police said.

Battisti, 52, disappeared in France in August 2004, shortly before the French government signed an extradition order to return him to Italy, where he has been convicted in absentia for four murders.

A former member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism, Battisti lived in Paris from 1990 where he made his name as a crime writer.

He was arrested at daybreak in a Rio hotel, as he met with a member of his support committee, who had travelled to Brazil to give him money, officials said.

At the time of his arrest near Brazil's fabled Copacabana beach Battisti was meeting French national Lucy Genevieve Oles. Police said there were no immediate charges against Oles, who had entered the country legally and had declared upon her entry that she was carrying some 9,000 euros -- presumably for Battisti.

Authorities said however that she might at a later time be called upon to testify against the former revolutionary.

Battisti's plight has been taken up by campaigners in France, who in 2004 vainly urged the government not to accede to Italy's extradition request.

In 1993 the former revolutionary was given a life sentence by an Italian court for his role in four murders committed in 1978 and 1979.

Supporters say his conviction rested on faulty evidence and that because he was tried in absentia there should be a re-trial -- which Italy refuses.

Italian Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, speaking to the ANSA news agency, hailed the "brilliant operation" leading to Battisti's arrest and said he hoped "the extradition procedure will lead to Battisti's speedy return to Italy."

Battisti had benefited for many years from a policy instituted by French Socialist president Francois Mitterrand under which Italian left-wing extremists could stay in France if they abandoned their commitment to armed struggle.

Pietro Forno, deputy prosecutor of Turin, also hailed Battisti's arrest, saying he was still dangerous 14 years after being convicted in absentia.

"Nothing suggests that he has changed in terms of his dangerousness," Forno told ANSA.

Forno, recalling "fierce attacks" against him in the 1980s when he pursued Battisti, criticised the French authorities for what he described as a "permissive" attitude at the time.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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