MILAN (Reuters) - Italian former leftist guerrilla Cesare Battisti, convicted of murder and on the run for almost four decades after escaping prison, will be extradited to Italy after being arrested in Bolivia, officials said on Sunday.
“Cesare Battisti will be back in Italy in the coming hours on a flight from Santa Cruz to Rome,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tweeted after a phone call with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Battisti, 64, was arrested on Saturday in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra by an Interpol team.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Italy for involvement in four murders in the 1970s as a member of the far-left Armed Proletarians for Communism.
After escaping in 1981, he lived in France before fleeing to Brazil to avoid extradition. Battisti, who has a 5-year-old Brazilian son, lived in Brazil with the support of former left-wing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
However, the far-right Bolsonaro, who took office this month, pledged to return Battisti to Italy. In December, a Brazilian Supreme Court judge ordered Battisti’s arrest, but by then he had vanished again.
At a press conference on Sunday, Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero said Battisti had entered Bolivia illegally and had been found on the streets.
He said Interpol Bolivia would hand him over in the coming hours at Santa Cruz’s Viru Viru airport.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini thanked Bolsonaro and the new Brazilian government “with all my heart for the changed political climate”.
Salvini, head of the right-wing League party that partners the 5-Star Movement in Italy’s ruling coalition, was one of the first top European politicians to endorse Bolsonaro.
Battisti, who became a successful crime novel writer, said last year he feared he would be tortured and killed if he were sent back to Italy.
His lawyer said last month that he had filed an appeal against the Brazilian Supreme Court decision in an attempt to block extradition.
Reporting by Stephen Jewkes in Milan and Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia and Danny Ramos in Bolivia; Editing by Kevin Liffey