Former left-wing activist Cesare Battisti arrested at Brazil-Bolivia border

Cesare Battisti

Former left-wing activist Cesare Battisti arrested at Brazil-Bolivia border

Cesare Battisti was sentenced in absentia in 1993 to life imprisonment for four homicides and was detained. His lawyers demanded his immediate release.

He initially claimed that he was fishing. But when the Brazilian security forces, who followed him discreetly, arrested him in the town of Corumba (southwestern Brazil ) on Wednesday, October 4, when he tried to cross the Bolivian border, thousands of dollars and euros, Cesare Battisti could no longer deny his attempt to escape.

The 62-year-old former member of the Proletariat Armed for Communism (PAC, extreme left), sentenced in absentia to perpetuity in 1993, in Italy for four homicides committed during the “lead years” was immediately placed in detention.

His lawyers demanded his immediate release, fearing that the Brazilian government would take advantage of this detention to give rise to a new request for extradition from Italy. An anxiety that had not ceased in recent days to gain importance among the defenders of the former far-left militant.

On 28 September, Mr. Battisti ‘s lawyers filed an application for habeas corpus ( a procedure which lays down the fundamental freedom not to be imprisoned without trial) to the Brazilian Supreme Court to deal with any eventuality.

The episode marks a new bounce of the Battisti soap opera, become the perfect symbol of the wounds, not closed, years of Italian lead. Refugee in Brazil since 2004, the former member of the PAC, on the run from his escape from the prison of Frosinone (Lazio), on 4 October 1981, had first taken up residence in Mexico before arriving in Paris at the beginning of the years 1990, believing himself protected by the “Mitterrand doctrine”. The France had thus assured in 1985 that it was abandoning extradition to Italy of a former far-left militant who renounced violence if they have not committed blood crimes.


In Paris, he had obtained a residence permit and a job as a building keeper, at the same time as he wrote several detective novels on which the shadow of the years of lead hangs. He did not cease to claim his innocence but refused to appear before the Italian courts. The latter had condemned him definitively in 1993 for “assassinations and complicity in assassinations”.

But France’s protection proved more fragile than expected. In early 2004, he was arrested by the national anti-terrorist division, in response to a new request for Italian extradition. He is soon set at liberty, without threatening to go away. Having exhausted all recourse, despite the mobilization of numerous left-wing figures (Bertrand Delanoë, François Hollande ) or cultural circles (Fred Vargas, Bernard-Henri Lévy), he joined the clandestinity and owed his salvation only to a flight to Brazil, that the French government is accused by Rome of not having sought to prevent.

His Brazilian years will not be resting either. He was arrested in March 2007, at the request of Italy, and released four months later, following President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s intervention in extremis. On the last day of his term on 31 December 2010, Lula had rejected Rome’s request for extradition in 2009. In June 2011, the Brazilian judges ruled that Rome could not challenge this “sovereign” decision by the former head of state. Cesare Battisti now has a permanent resident visa.

According to the Brazilian daily O Globo, whose entourage nicknamed “the little fool” because of his long solitary walks, lived in the city of Rio Preto, in the State of Sao Paulo, where he would have recently undergone treatment against l ‘Hepatitis C.

Catching up with his past

The arrival in power of Michel Temer in 2016, following the dismissal of Lula’s political heiress, Dilma Rousseff, will sign the return of the Italian’s torments. The request for extradition, which would have been reiterated recently in Rome, has already received the green light from two ministers, justice and foreign relations, reports the Brazilian press. The Temp government, unpopular, would see in this acceptance an “important diplomatic gesture” towards Italy, which has constantly demanded that Cesare Battisti is handed over to him, in order that he may serve his sentence.

A by believing the lawyers of Cesare Battisti, such a move would be legally inadmissible an appeal against the decision taken by Lula in 2010 was, according to them, prescribed. “It does not make sense unless it distorts the Brazilian legal system. What seems to be currently the favorite sport in Brasilia, “ laments Igor Tamasauskas, one of the lawyers of Mr. Battisti, quoted by O Globo. A reference to the battles between the Senate and the Supreme Court, which seem to have a different interpretation of the texts and vary according to the profile of the interested parties. Singles“The work of one of the countless organizations of extreme left then at war with the State”, Cesare Battisti is thus again caught up by his past.