Brazil judge orders Italian militant Battisti released
SAO PAULO (AP) — A former Italian communist militant who has avoided serving time for four murders in his home country was freed from custody in Sao Paulo on Friday after his lawyer protested a move that could lead to his deportation.
Cesare Battisti left federal police headquarters in Sao Paulo only hours after Brazilian police arrested him. Prosecutors contend he is eligible for deportation due to his use of fake immigration stamps in his passport when he entered the country in 2004.
Judge Candido Ribeiro granted an injunction request by Battisti’s lawyer, Igor Sant’Anna Tamasauskas, to suspend the deportation proceeding pending an appeal.
Battisti, 60, was a member of the Italian militant group Armed Proletarians for Communism when he was charged with the murders of four people, including a police officer and prison guard, in the late 1970s. He has acknowledged being part of the group but denied killing anyone.
While awaiting trial, he escaped from an Italian prison in 1981. He was convicted in absentia in 1990 and sentenced to life in prison.
Battisti moved first to Mexico, then to France in 1990, where he remade himself as an author. He fled to Brazil in 2004 when France changed asylum policies that had granted him protection there.
In 2007, Battisti was arrested in Rio de Janeiro at the request of Interpol. It soon was discovered he had used fake immigration stamps to enter the country. The Justice Ministry’s National Committee for Refugees recommended extradition, a decision overturned in 2009.
In 2010, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rejected Italy’s extradition request and granted Battisti asylum. The Supreme Court approved that decision three years later and Brazil’s National Immigration Council granted Battisti a residency visa.
In 2013, however, the top federal appeals court rejected Battisti’s request to overturn the charge regarding his use of the fake stamps. Federal prosecutors have sought to use that decision to seek Battisti’s deportation. This month, a federal judge ruled in their favor, which led to his arrest Thursday.
Ribeiro, however, ruled that a federal court cannot change decisions made by a higher court, a court official said. She asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak to the media.
She said the “merits of the injunction” will be analyzed by a panel of three judges. It was unclear when the panel would meet or when a decision would be made.
There are several layers of appeals that Battisti can make, and it’s expected to take years before his case again reaches the Supreme Court for a new ruling.