SAO PAULO – Brazilian authorities said on Friday that they are trying to track down an Italian former guerrilla convicted in his homeland of murder who has been living in Brazil since 2004.
Cesare Battisti’s whereabouts are unknown and he is considered a fugitive from justice.
Police launched the search Friday at his home in Cananeia, a remote town on the coast of Sao Paulo state.
His attorney, Igor Tomasauskas, told EFE he has no idea where Battisti is to be found and knew nothing about him even before Supreme Court Judge Luiz Fux issued a warrant for his arrest on Thursday.
“He knows the consequences of turning himself in and not turning himself in,” the attorney said.
Attorney General Raquel Dodge asked for preventive prison for Battista, who once belonged to the Armed Proletarians for Communism, an arm of the Red Brigades, for the purpose of “assuring his eventual extradition” to Italy.
Battista escaped an Italian jail in 1981 while awaiting trial for the slayings of two police officers, a jeweler and a butcher between 1977 and 1979.
The former rebel, who has always maintained his innocence, was convicted in absentia in 1993 and sentenced to life behind bars.
Battista enjoyed refugee status in France for 10 years under a policy in favor of Italian militants who renounced armed struggle, but Paris revoked his asylum in 2004 when Italy requested his extradition.
The author of several popular crime novels, Battisti was arrested in Rio de Janeiro in March 2007. His request for asylum in Brazil was first rejected and then accepted, but the ensuing protest from Italy caused the Brazilian courts to take up Rome’s extradition request.
Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that Battisti could be extradited to Italy, if then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva agreed.
Instead, on Dec. 31, 2010, the final day of his second term, Lula granted Battisti political asylum.
However, his stay in Brazil was endangered in August 2016 with the coming to power of right-wing President Michel Temer after Congress ousted elected head of state Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s political protege.
Temer than expressed his wish to extradite Battisti, as did the president-elect, the even-more-right-wing Jair Bolsonaro, who will be inaugurated on Jan. 1.
“Let all be normalized as soon as possible in the case of this terrorist killer, defended by his Brazilian comrades with the same ideas. Count on us!” Bolsonaro said Friday on Twitter.
That was his response to a tweet from Italy’s hard-line Interior Minister Mateo Salvini, who referred to Battisti as “a convict sentenced to life in prison who is enjoying life on the beaches of Brazil in contempt of his victims.”