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The Latest: Bolivia cops say Battisti now in Italy’s custody

January 13, 2019
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In this frame grab taken by a video released by the Italian Police, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, Italian fugitive communist militant Cesare Battisti walks in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Italy sent an aircraft to Bolivia on Sunday to pick up Battisti after he was captured there nearly three decades after he was convicted of murder, setting the stage for a climax to one of Italy’s longest-running sagas.(Italian Police Via AP)

ROME (AP) — The latest on Italian fugitive militant Cesare Battisti, who has been detained in Bolivia (all times local):

11:20p.m.

A police colonel in Bolivia says a left-wing Italian militant who was convicted of murder in his home country nearly three decades ago has been handed over to Italian officials and will be flown back to Italy.

Police Col. Paul Saavedra says Cesare Battisti is in the custody of Intepol officials on a plane that was sent by Italy after the fugitive was captured in Bolivia. He says Battisti was handed over to Italian custody at Viru Viru airport in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz at 5 p.m.

Saavedra says that “the Italian citizen entered Bolivia illegally.”

Earlier Sunday, Italian and Bolivian officials announced that the 64-year-old Battisti had been arrested in Bolivia. Italian police and RAI state television said he was caught in Santa Cruz, where he was located by intelligence agents after using one of his mobile devices.

Battisti had been living openly in Brazil for years and enjoyed the protection of left-wing governments on both sides of the Atlantic. But Brazil’s outgoing president signed a decree last month ordering his extradition, apparently sparking Battisti’s latest effort to flee.

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5:50 p.m.

Italy’s premier says fugitive militant Cesare Battisti will return to Italy “in the coming hours” on a direct flight from Bolivia to serve his sentence for four murders.

A Facebook post from Premier Giuseppe Conte clarified Battisti’s itinerary on Sunday. He was captured in Bolivia, but it hadn’t been clear if he would be extradited straight to Italy since he had been living in Brazil.

Battisti, who has been on the run since 1981, was arrested overnight in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de La Sierra by Bolivian police with Italian agents on the ground. Italy sent a plane to Bolivia on Sunday to pick him up.

Conte wrote: “Cesare Battisti will return to Italy in the coming hours, with a flight from Santa Cruz direct to Rome.”

Conte said he had called Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to thank him for Brazil’s cooperation.

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1:30 p.m.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is hailing the capture in Bolivia of Italian militant fugitive Cesare Battisti and is vowing he will face justice, in a sign that Battisti’s extradition to Italy is increasingly imminent.

The far-right Bolsonaro used a tweet Sunday to denounce the policies of former leftist Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who granted Battisti political asylum in Brazil in 2010. 

Battisti had been living in Brazil after fleeing Italy in 1981 while awaiting trial on four counts of murder. He apparently recently slipped into Bolivia, where he was captured overnight. He denies killing anyone but was convicted in 1990 of four murders.

Bolsonaro tweeted: “Finally, there will be justice for the Italian assassin and partner of ideas of one of the most corrupt governments to ever exist” — a reference to da Silva’s Workers’ Party.

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11:10 a.m.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says a government aircraft is heading to Bolivia and will bring captured fugitive militant Cesare Battisti back home.

In a statement Sunday, Conte praised Bolivian and Brazilian authorities for the overnight capture of the fugitive after Battisti has been on the run for nearly four decades. He said Battisti will begin serving his life prison sentences as soon as he returns to Italian soil.

Battisti escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 while awaiting trial on four counts of murder allegedly committed when he was a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism. He was convicted in absentia in 1990. He denies ever killing anyone.

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10:40 a.m.

Italy is vowing to have fugitive militant Cesare Battisti extradited to Italy “as soon as possible” following his capture in Bolivia.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday that Battisti’s arrest overnight was the result of a “determined effort by Bolivian and Brazilian authorities,” together with Italy’s diplomatic missions. Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi “confirmed that the effort will continue so that his extradition to Italy can take place as soon as possible.”

Battisti escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 while awaiting trial on four counts of murder allegedly committed when he was a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism. He was convicted in absentia in 1990.

He has acknowledged membership in the group but has denied killing anyone.

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10 a.m.

Italy is praising the capture in Bolivia of fugitive Italian communist militant Cesare Battisti and is vowing that he will “finish his days in prison” to serve murder convictions dating from 1990.

Bolivian police seized Battisti overnight. The Italian ambassador to Brazil, Antonio Bernardini, tweeted: “Battisti has been captured. Democracy is stronger than terrorism.”

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini praised Bolivian police and Brazil’s government. He called Battisti a “delinquent who doesn’t deserve to live comfortably on the beach but rather to finish his days in prison.”

Battisti escaped from an Italian prison in 1981 while awaiting trial on four counts of murder allegedly committed when he was a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism. He was convicted in absentia in 1990.

He has acknowledged membership in the group but has denied killing anyone.

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