Italian ex-revolutionary fights murder extradition from France

13th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 12 (AFP) - Cesare Battisti, an Italian author and former revolutionary adopted as a symbol by the French intellectual left, appeared before a Paris court Wednesday to fight his extradition to Italy to serve life in prison for four murders.

PARIS, May 12 (AFP) - Cesare Battisti, an Italian author and former revolutionary adopted as a symbol by the French intellectual left, appeared before a Paris court Wednesday to fight his extradition to Italy to serve life in prison for four murders.

The 49-year-old former member of Armed Proletarians for Communism fled to France in 1990, benefiting from a policy of Socialist president Francois Mitterrand under which Italian left-wing extremists could stay in France if they renounced their terrorist past.

Three years later he was convicted in absentia by a court in Milan for carrying out or planning four murders in 1978 and 1979, including the killing of a prison guard in the town of Udine and of a policeman in Milan.

An initial attempt in 1991 to have Battisti extradited failed, but earlier this year Italy's centre-right government filed a new request, leading to his arrest by French police on February 10. On March 3 a court ordered his release pending Wednesday's hearing.

At the hearing Battisti told the court he had taken refuge in France because it was "a country that welcomed Italians, because France had committed itself through the voice of the president of the Republic."

He said he had decided to get out of Italy when his lawyers were arrested.

"I could no longer believe that I would get out of the situation, I no longer had any confidence whatsoever in Italian justice," he told the court.

"One particular case, my own, has been removed from the context of the period. It was a social conflict. There were deaths, a lot of violence. Trials during that period in my view have no value," he added.

Today a successful writer of detective novels, Battisti has won the support of many in France's left-wing establishment, with around 20,000 people including well-known political figures signing an Internet petition to demand that he remain in the country.

The Socialist party leader Francois Hollande visited him in prison, Le Monde newspaper printed an editorial condemning plans to extradite him to Italy, and the Socialist-led Paris municipal council took the unusual step of declaring him "under the protection of the city."

"How can we make those who govern us understand that by acting like this they recreate the conditions of despair that in the 1970s plunged the adolescent that you were then into the armed struggle," wrote novelist Daniel Pennac in an open letter to Battisti in Le Monde.

According to the petition: "By acceding to the extradition request  ... France will be guilty of betrayal not just of the law, but of a promise of state."

Some 100 pro-Battisti demonstrators - Italians, French Communist party supporters, anarchists - marched outside the Paris court of appeals, demanding that he be allowed to remain in France.

The Paris prosecutor's office argued that the new extradition request from Italy is legitimate because it was triggered by Battisti's conviction rather than by a mere arrest warrant. France's centre-right Justice Minister Dominique Perben said the law must be allowed to take its course.

But lawyers for Battisti were expected to say that his 1993 conviction was unsafe because it was based on the testimony of turned informers, and that the French courts have no right in law to re-hear an extradition request that they first rejected in 1991.

The court will announce its decision on June 30.

©AFP

Subject: French news

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