RIO DE JANEIRO, Wednesday 29 December 2010 (AFP) – A decision on whether to allow the extradition of a former militant, Cesare Battisti, from Brazil to his native Italy will be made on Thursday, said President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
“I’m only going to think about that tomorrow. When I’ve made my decision, you’ll know,” said Lula on Wednesday, three days before he steps down at the end of his mandate on January 1, handing power to his successor Dilma Rousseff.
Lula has said he would decide Battisti’s fate before Friday, so that any repercussions with Italy would not contaminate the first days of Rousseff’s term.
If Brazil denies Italy’s extradition demand, it risks stirring fury from Rome, which views Battisti as a “terrorist” guilty of four murders in the 1970s and sentenced in absentia to life in prison.
Battisti, 56, has been on the run from Italian justice for the past three decades, spending time in France, Mexico and finally Brazil, where he has been in jail under the Italian extradition request for the past three years.
Last year, when Lula’s government declared Battisti a refugee, Italy yanked its ambassador home in protest.
Brazil’s supreme court later voided that designation and said Battisti should be sent to Italy, but it gave the final decision to Lula.
Battisti, who made a new career as a crime novelist while living in France, has said he is innocent of the murder charges against him, and claims he is the victim of “political” persecution in Italy.