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Wanted Italian terrorist freed from Paris jail

Published on 04/03/2004

PARIS, March 3 (AFP) - A Paris court on Wednesday ordered the release from custody of a former far-left extremist sought by Italian authorities after being sentenced to life in prison for murder.

Cesare Battisti, 49, who has lived in France since 1990 and is now a writer of detective novels, was detained on February 10 after an extradition request was filed by Italy. The decision means he can remain at liberty pending a court hearing on the request on April 7.

A former member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism group, Battisti was convicted in absentia in 1998 by a court in Milan. He was found guilty to have taken part in four killings in 1978 and 1979 as well as a number of armed robberies.

Italian Justice Minister Roberto Castelli refuses to comment on the decision, his spokesman told AFP.

French left-wingers have launched a high-profile campaign to stop the extradition, with the Socialist majority on the Paris city council voting to give him the “protection of the city.”

The influential French daily Le Monde devoted its editorial to Battisti Wednesday, urging the courts not to hand him over to Italian authorities.

The paper said that France should stick with the policy introduced by the late Socialist president Francois Mitterrand under which left-wing Italian extremists were not extradited if they could show they had broken with their past.

On Tuesday Castelli said Battisti “must pay his debt”, adding that he was seeking the Italian’s extradition because he was “a fugitive from justice” on Italy’s list of most-wanted criminals.

The French court ordered Battisti to surrender his passport and report to a local police station every week.


                                                              Subject: France news