ROME (AP) — Italian lawmakers are demanding Brazil extradite former Italian communist militant Cesare Battisti after he was caught near the Bolivian border in an apparent attempt to flee the country.
Battisti was detained for questioning Wednesday after he was stopped near the border carrying about $7,500 in cash in foreign currencies. He was later put under arrest, but late Friday, a judge ordered his release, pending the investigation.
Battisti escaped from 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 denies killing anyone.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rejected Italy's extradition request in 2010 and granted Battisti asylum.
Now, a chorus of Italian lawmakers, including ex-Premier Matteo Renzi, are demanding that Battisti finally face justice for Italian murder convictions. Justice Minister Andrea Orlando has said that extradition "is possible" and that Italy is determined he serve time to "give back, at least in part, what was taken from our country and the families of his victims."
According to a statement from a court in the Brazilian state where Battisti was detained, the Italian is suspected of money laundering and carrying more foreign currency than is legal. The judge also said he appeared to be trying to leave the country amid fears Brazil would reverse its decision and send him back to Italy. Under Brazilian law, those granted asylum must seek permission to leave the country.
It was not clear late Friday when Battisti would be released.
Battisti's defense denied that he had committed any financial crime, according to court documents.