Red Brigades convict seeks to calm France-Italy row
In a letter published in a newspaper, Ex Red Brigades cell leader Marina Petrella addresses a message of compassion to victims of the far-left group.
16 October 2008
PARIS -- A Red Brigades militant convicted of murder but saved from extradition to Italy by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed a message of compassion Thursday to the victims of the far-left group.
Italy reacted angrily after Sarkozy decided against sending Marina Petrella, a 54-year-old former Red Brigades cell leader, back to her homeland.
"The loss of a human life is always a tragedy and causes immeasurable suffering for the loved ones," Petrella said in a letter published in the Le Monde newspaper. "The pain of the victims has never left me."
Petrella was convicted in Italy in 1992 of plotting the 1981 murder of a senior Rome police officer and the kidnapping of a magistrate, but has been living openly in France for 15 years.
"For the past 20 years, I have tried, through a form of active non-violence, to show that my actions speak louder than my words," she added.
"Today I would like to express my sadness, my profound respect and, if you will allow me, my compassion."
France decided this year to extradite her to serve her sentence in Italy, but Sarkozy last weekend decided to suspend the extradition on "humanitarian grounds" after Petrella was hospitalised after embarking on a hunger strike.
Petrella, who has been living and working in France in 1993, is also said to be suffering from depression.
She had been allowed to settle in France despite being wanted in Italy under a policy introduced by French President Francois Mitterrand of sheltering Italy's former leftist radicals, provided they renounced violence.
Sarkozy on Monday confirmed that his wife Carla Bruni went to Petrella's bedside at a Paris hospital and told her of the decision to block the extradition.
"I asked her to go because Mrs Petrella was in danger of dying," Sarkozy said. "This hunger strike, this thirst strike, needed to stop. She's done that.
Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa raised questions about Sarkozy's decision and suggested Petrella was not suffering from any health problems.
La Russa said Petrella appeared "well rested" and in "better" condition than himself in photos shown on television.
But Petrella's daughter, Elisa Novelli, told Italian radio that the photographs referred to by La Russa dated from "September and December 2007".
On Tuesday, the head of a group of Italian victims of terrorism, Bruno Berardi, said he was starting a hunger strike in an effort to get Sarkozy to change his mind. Berardi's father was killed by the Red Brigade on 10 March 1978.
The Red Brigades, a Marxist-Leninist group formed in the 1970s, sought to create a revolutionary state through armed struggle.
Among their most notorious actions was the kidnap and murder of Italy's former prime minister Aldo Moro.
[AFP / Expatica]