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Italian ex-militant extradited and jailed after decades on run

AFP  |  Rome 

Former communist militant Cesare Battisti, wanted in for four murders in the 1970s, arrived in on Monday after an international police squad tracked him down and arrested him in

Jailed in 1979 for belonging to an armed revolutionary group outlawed in Italy, escaped from prison two years later, and has spent nearly four decades on the run.

An Italian-flagged plane carrying landed at on Monday morning. Battisti, who was not wearing handcuffs, smiled grimly as he was escorted off the plane by a dozen policemen.

"I know that I'm going to prison," an apparently resigned said, according to police.

He mostly slept during the flight, as well as speaking about his life and escape from to

said that for security reasons Battisti would be taken to on the island of instead of

He will begin his life sentence with six months in solitary confinement.

"This is not the finish line but the starting point," Italy's far-right told journalists at Ciampino, citing the presence of "dozens" of other former militants still on the run in countries from to

had repeatedly sought the extradition of the militant, who lived in for years under the protection of former leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, himself now in prison for corruption.

Battisti, 64, was seized late Saturday in the Bolivian de la Sierra in an operation carried out by a joint team of Italian and Bolivian officers.

The fugitive could be seen walking casually about in sunglasses and a blue T-shirt, in surveillance footage taken hours before his capture. He gave up without a struggle, according to sources.

Battisti was sentenced to life imprisonment for having killed two Italian policemen, taking part in the murder of a and helping plan the slaying of a who died in a shootout that left his teenage son in a wheelchair.

"It's over, now the victims can rest in peace," said Alberto Torregiani, the son of the slain "It should have happened years ago."

Battisti has admitted to being part of the Armed Proletarians for Communism, a radical group that staged a string of robberies and attacks, but has always denied responsibility for any deaths, painting himself as a political refugee.

However is determined to punish one of the key figures from Italy's so-called Years of Lead, a decade of violent turmoil which began in the late 1960s and saw dozens of deadly attacks by hardline leftwing and rightwing groups.

During his election campaign, Brazil's far-right -- who took office on January 1 -- vowed that if elected he would "immediately" send Battisti back to

Battisti had filed for asylum without receiving any response from authorities, Bolivia's ombudsman said in an article published in the local El Deber de newspaper.

He had been hoping to find favour with Bolivia's left-wing after saying in his asylum request he had been forced to quit due to "the ominous coincidence" that Italy and Brazil were both now run by "far-right" governments.

Bolsonaro's son, Brazilian lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, tweeted in Italian with a picture of Battisti: "Brazil is no longer the land of bandits. Matteo Salvini, the 'little gift' is on its way." Since his jailbreak Battisti had reinvented himself as an author, writing a string of noir novels. In 2004, he skipped bail in France, where he had taken refuge. He then went to live clandestinely in Brazil until he was arrested in 2007 in

After years in custody, then-president Lula issued a decree -- later upheld by Brazil's -- in 2010 refusing Battisti's extradition to Italy, and he was freed, angering

Battisti, who has a five-year-old Brazilian son, last year told AFP he faced "torture" and death if he were ever to be sent back to Italy.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, January 14 2019. 21:45 IST