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Brazilian president to make Battisti decision this week

Extradition of ex-terrorist a 'juridical' question, Lula says

27 December, 17:37
Brazilian president to make Battisti decision this week (ANSA) - Brasilia, December 27 - Outgoing Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva told ANSA on Monday that he will decide this week on Italy's request to extradite former Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti.

Speaking to the press at the end of his second and last term, Lula said he wanted to resolve the matter before his successor Dilma Rousseff takes office on January 1, 2011.

According to the popular Brazilian leader, "this is not a problem regarding sovereignty, it is a juridical question. When the attorney general gives his opinion, then I will make my decision".

"I have never said what my opinion is. Once (Attorney General) Luis Inacio (Lucena Adams) expresses his view I will act accordingly".

In November 2009 Brazil's supreme court 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 last April that he would review the high court decision.

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

The supreme court judges said his decision should square with bilateral agreements between Italy and Brazil, but added that the Brazilian constitution gives the president personal powers to deny the extradition if he chooses to.

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

The 56-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.

photo: Cesare Battisti