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Battisti victim's son vows to fight if Lula grants asylum

'It's right to demonstrate' if ex-terrorist stays in Brazil

29 December, 13:27
Battisti victim's son vows to fight if Lula grants asylum (ANSA) - Milan, December 29 - The son of a jeweler gunned down in Milan in 1979 on Wednesday vowed to fight on if the ex-terrorist convicted for his father's murder is granted asylum in Brazil.

Alberto Torregiani, who was left paralysed from the waist down in the attack that killed his father, told ANSA the time for diplomacy was over and he and other victims' families would organise street protests.

Outgoing Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva is set to decide this week on Italy's request to extradite Cesare Battisti and the Brazilian press has reported he will turn Italy down.

"If you do things politely, it seems justice is ignored," said Torregiani, who was 13 at the time of the attack by Battisti's leftist militant group, and is now 44.

"It appears you get more by putting your foot down and banging your fists so that's what we're going to do.

"Anyone who believes in justice must not accept this decision (by Lula). We won't do anything outrageous, we're thinking of mobilising people.

"People demonstrate for many things, even trivial ones, so perhaps it's right to demonstrate for this".

Torregiani praised the Italian government's efforts to get Battisti back to serve out a life sentence for four murders but said it was time for the victims' relatives to take things into their own hands.

"Up till now we and the other families have just spoken about (the affair) and allowed the institutional bodies to do their work, which has been excellent.

"But clearly it isn't enough to use diplomacy, the people's voice must be heard".

Torregiani said the relatives had been expecting Lula to grant asylum but stressed "we're losing all sense of justice by letting a common criminal go free". Lula told ANSA on Monday he wanted to resolve the Battisti issue before his successor Dilma Rousseff takes office on January 1.

The Brazilian press reported Tuesday and Wednesday that, according to its sources, the former terrorist would be allowed to stay in Brazil. In November 2009 Brazil's supreme court turned down Battisti's request for asylum.

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 at the time 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 Italian 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: Battisti in December 2009