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Lula to decide on Battisti

Brazilian president gets court papers on ex-terrorist

16 April, 17:23
Lula to decide on Battisti (ANSA) - Brasilia, April 16 - Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva was on Friday given the last word on Italy's request to extradite former Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti.

Lula received the written ruling from the Supreme Court which in November turned down Battisti's request for asylum and ordered him sent back to Italy where he has been convicted in absentia for complicity in four murders committed by a leftist militant group in the 1970s.

The Brazilian president, who has in the past indicated he might view Battisti's case favourably, told Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in Washington Monday that he was awaiting the high court papers.

But there was no word on which way Lula might be leaning.

The supreme court judges said his decision would have to square with bilateral agreements between Italy and Brazil.

They said Lula could say when the extradition should take place but not decide against it.

But Lula said the ruling didn't tie his hands and that he was ''free to play this however I want''.

If Lula stops Battisti's return in a case the Berlusconi government has fought hard for, experts say the diplomatic repercussions would be considerable.

It could also be politically dangerous at home.

Parliamentary sources close to the Brazilian opposition say a group of MPs could decide to open proceedings against Lula for failing in his institutional duties if he decides to ignore the treaties and grant Battisti political asylum.

In addition to facing a life sentence in Italy, Battisti is also under investigation in Brazil where is suspected of having kept up his clandestine activities.

A month ago he received a two-year sentence for using a fake passport when he entered Brazil, a term he is serving in 'semi-liberty' but under surveillance so he can't skip the country.

The 55-year-old Battisti was arrested in Brazil in April 2007, some five years after he had fled to that country to avoid extradition to Italy from France, where he had lived for 15 years and become a successful writer of crime novels.

In January 2009 the Brazilian justice ministry granted Battisti political asylum on the grounds that he would face ''political persecution'' in Italy.

The ruling outraged the Italian government who demanded that it be appealed to the Brazilian supreme court.

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