The Brazilian government told the Supreme Court on Monday that President Michel Temer has the authority to revoke the asylum status a former left-wing guerrilla convicted of murder in Italy and extradite him at his country’s request. Cesare Battisti committed four murders in the 1970s when he belonged to a guerilla group called Armed Proletarians for Communism, according to the Italian government. He escaped from prison in 1981 and lived in France before fleeing to Brazil to avoid being extradited to Italy.
Brazil’s Supreme Court authorized Battisti’s extradition in 2009, but he was not sent back to Italy because former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva granted him refugee status on his last day in office in 2010. In a note to the top court, the government’s chief lawyer Grace Mendonça argued that extradition was a political decision that only the president could make.
She reminded the court that it had approved Battisti’s extradition in 2009 and asked the justices to reject a habeas corpus writ issued ten days ago by one of its members. Battisti was arrested on Oct. 4 as he tried to cross the border into Bolivia in a taxi, apparently fearing that Brazil’s government was about to revoke his asylum status at Italy’s request. He was freed two days later.
Lula’s refusal to extradite Battisti upset relations between Brazil and Italy. Temer, a center-right president who took office when Lula’s handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached last year, decided it was time to remove that thorn.