Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva says he regrets protecting communist militant Cesare Battisti from extradition to his native Italy, after the ex-fugitive confessed to four murders.
Lula, Brazil's president from 2003 to 2010, revealed in an interview he was prepared to apologize over his decision to allow Battisti to remain in Brazil.
On the final day of his presidency, the left-wing leader denied Battisti's extradition, enabling the militant to continue dodging the Italian authorities until he was captured last year in Bolivia after nearly four decades on the run.
Now serving a life sentence in Italy, Battisti confessed to the 1970s murders several weeks after his capture.
"All of us on the Brazilian left who defended Cesare Battisti feel frustrated and disappointed," Lula told online talk show TV Democracia in a segment that aired Thursday.
"I would have no problem apologizing to the Italian left and the victims' families."
He said he never met Battisti in person, and had merely followed the advice of then justice minister Tarso Genro, who believed the ex-militant was innocent.
Battisti, 65, committed the murders during Italy's so-called "Years of Lead," in a failed attempt to trigger a communist revolution.
Jailed in 1979, he escaped from prison two years later and reinvented himself as a crime writer during his life on the run.
He apparently fled Brazil after far-right President Jair Bolsonaro vowed during his 2018 election campaign to "immediately" send the ex-militant back to Italy if elected.
Lula, 74, has had his own run-ins with the law since leaving office.
Highly popular during his presidency, he has since been caught up in a massive corruption scandal, which landed him in jail for a year and a half and badly tarnished his image.
He says the case against him was trumped up to keep him from staging a political comeback.