French first lady denies interfering in Italian fugitive row

26th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy denied Sunday she had intervened to prevent the extradition of former far-left activist Cesare Battisti to Italy from Brazil.

ROME - Bruni-Sarkozy, who has been married to French President Nicolas Sarkozy since February 2008, told Italian television she had played "no role" in Brazil's decision to refuse to extradite the ex-revolutionary.

"I had no role whatsoever, absolutely none...I would never allow it, I don't follow his ideology, I've never defended Battisti and I am happy to be able to answer this question and say so to the victims' loved ones," she told Rai television.

"I really don't see how someone could think that a president's wife would be able to discuss such a subject with the president of another country," she added.

Battisti, 54, was found guilty by an Italian court in 1993 over four killings carried out in the 1970s, when he was a member of the Movement of Armed Proletarians for Communism, a leftwing extremist group.

The former militant - who has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence - lived in France between 1990 and 2004 but fled to Brazil when a French law protecting him changed and he risked extradition to Italy.

Battisti was arrested in Brazil in 2007, but has since been granted political asylum by the government there, sparking outrage in Italy.

Media reports in October last year suggested Bruni-Sarkozy had helped to prevent the extradition of another former communist revolutionary, Marina Petrella, to Italy. The first lady's sister had expressed support for Petrella.

Petrella was sentenced to life by a court in Rome in 1992 for killing a police officer and seriously wounding his driver.

President Nicolas Sarkozy reversed a French court's decision to extradite Petrella and vetoed the move on health grounds.


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