Italian far-left suspects in France seek to avoid extradition
Nine suspected former members of Italian far-left militant groups sought on Wednesday to avoid extradition, with one telling a Paris court she had gone through “perpetual atonement” while rebuilding her life in France.
The nine were appearing for the first time at a public hearing in an appeal court in the French capital, seeking to avoid being sent back to Italy on decades-old extradition requests.
Seven suspects, some alleged to have belonged to the notorious Red Brigades, were arrested in France last month.
The two others — Luigi Bergamin and Raffaele Ventura — handed themselves in the day after the arrests. A tenth man is still on the run.
All had been convicted in Italy of committing acts of terror in the 1970s and 1980s.
French police rounded up the suspects on the orders of President Emmanuel Macron in a gesture designed to resolve a long-standing source of tension with Rome.
France has long served as a haven for Red Brigades figures from the 1970s and 80s.
In the Paris court, the nine suspected former militants, aged from 63 to 77, stressed their strong opposition, speaking of their “astonishment”, “incomprehension” and “feeling of injustice” at the new move by the French authorities.
One of them, 66-year-old Marina Petrella, told the court she had already paid a high price.
“These thirty years of refuge in France were years of pain… a form of perpetual atonement, without remission, without parole which will accompany me until death,” Petrella told the court.
“But all this suffering has given way to the reconstruction of life,” she added.
“I would like this suffering to be taken into account in your decision, because after 30 years of living in France, at the age of almost 70, we would not be returning to Italy to serve a life sentence — we would be returning to die in prison.”
Her extradition had been signed by France in 2008 before being suspended, by then president Nicolas Sarkozy, for health reasons.
She is wanted back in Italy for her role in several killings.
Each of the nine facing extradition were heard by the court for around 15 minutes. They will appear again next month.
Ultra-leftist groups like the Red Brigades sowed chaos during the period in Italy known as the Years of Lead — named after the number of bullets fired — from the late 1960s to mid-1980s.
The Red Brigades, the most notorious, were responsible for kidnappings and murders, including of former prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978.
Bergamin, meanwhile, belonged to the Armed Proletarians for Communism group, founded in the mid-70s and disbanded a few years later.
Ventura was affiliated with the Communist Combatant Formations, also active in the 70s.