Fugitive Leftist Militant Captured in Bolivia After 3 Decades

January 13, 2019 Updated: January 13, 2019

ROME—Italy sent an aircraft to Bolivia on Jan. 13 to pick up fugitive left-wing militant Cesare Battisti after he was captured there nearly three decades after being convicted of murder in his home country. The development sets the stage for a climactic end to one of Italy’s longest-running efforts to bring a fugitive to justice.

Bolivian police, working with Italian agents on the ground, arrested Battisti, 64, overnight in Santa Cruz de La Sierra, Italian police said. He had been living in Brazil for years, but last month Brazil’s outgoing president signed a decree ordering his extradition, apparently sparking Battisti’s latest flight.

Italian police released a video of Battisti they said was taken hours before his capture, showing him seemingly oblivious to the surveillance cameras tracking him as he walked casually down the street in jeans, a blue T-shirt, and sunglasses. A subsequent image showed Battisti’s mug shot under the seal of the Bolivian police.

“Cesare Battisti’s long flight is over,” Justice Minister Alfonso Buonafede declared.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called him 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, and is facing a life term for the deaths of two police officers, a jeweller, and a butcher.

Battisti has acknowledged membership in the group but has denied killing anyone and has painted himself as a political refugee.

Salvini praised Bolivian police and Brazil’s new government for following through on the fugitive’s case.