Battisti says wasn't fleeing (4)

'Protected by Lula decree'

(ANSA) - Rome, October 10 - Italian former leftist militant Cesare Battisti said Tuesday he had not been trying to flee Brazil when he was picked up in a taxi heading for Bolivia last week, saying he had no reason to do so because he is still protected from extradition by former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's 2010 decree making him a permanent resident. "Why should I have fled?" Battisti told Brazilian TV station TV Tribuna. "I'm protected, the Lula decree cannot be revoked: five years have passed"." He said "this contention that I was fleeing doesn't stand up...I'm not a political refugee I'm an immigrant with a permanent visa, I can leave this country how and when I like, without any restriction, I have all Brazilian rights". Battisti, who is wanted for four murders committed in Italy's 1970s year so lead, went on: "And what was I fleeing from? This is the only country I am protected in".
    Battisti claimed that the Brazilian police had staged "an ambush" against him.
    "It was all organised," he said.
    Battisti, 62, stirred widespread outrage in Italy at the weekend by toasting with a beer after being provisionally released by the Brazilian authorities.
    Italy is working to bring back Battisti from Brazil so he can serve two life terms for the four murders.
    He was arrested Wednesday in Corumba', on the border between Brazil and Bolivia.
    The alleged would-be escape was launched after reports that the Brazilian government is moving towards extraditing Battisti.
    The former militant lifted a glass of beer to reporters at an airport bar as he was on his way back to his home in Sao Paulo.
    It was initially reported he had been stopped on charges of taking money out of the country but a Brazilian judge instead charged him with breaching his status as political refugee.
    He was later acquitted of that charge, however.
    Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano and Justice Minister Andrea Orlando have both said Italy is determined to get Battisti back, amid reports the Brazilian government is moving towards granting extradition.