ROME (AP) — A left-wing Italian militant who was convicted of murder in his home country nearly three decades ago was arrested in Bolivia, authorities said Sunday, setting the stage for a climactic end to one of Italy’s longest-running efforts to bring a fugitive to justice.
Hours later, Cesare Battisti was handed over to Italian custody, officials said, and was to be flown back to Italy to serve a life sentence. He was captured by Bolivian and Italian officers in Santa Cruz de La Sierra, where he was located by intelligence agents after using one of his mobile devices, Italian police and RAI state television said.
The 64-year-old had been living openly in Brazil for years and enjoyed the protection of left-wing governments on both sides of the Atlantic. But Brazil’s outgoing president signed a decree last month ordering his extradition, apparently sparking Battisti’s latest effort to flee.
Italian police released a video of Battisti they said was taken hours before his capture, showing him seemingly oblivious to surveillance cameras tracking him as he walked casually down the street in jeans, a blue T-shirt and sunglasses. A subsequent image showed Battisti’s mug shot under the seal of the Bolivian police.
“Cesare Battisti’s long flight is over,” Justice Minister Alfonso Buonafede declared, adding that he would be taken to Rome’s Rebibbia prison as soon as he lands in Italy.
Battisti escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 while awaiting trial on four counts of murder allegedly committed when he was a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism.