Around 150 former Italian activists, condemned in Italy for actions linked with the political and social upheaval of the 1970s, have emigrated to France. Since 1981, they have been legally residing there on the promise made by the former French President Francois Mitterrand. He promised that they would always have safe refuge there so long as they renounced their past political activities, did not go underground, and did not involve themselves in politics. Some of them are now being unfairly threatened with extradition to Italy where they would immediately be sent to prison.
Cesare Battisti, the author of several detective novels, was such an activist and is now facing possible deportation. On Tuesday, February 10, 2004, he was arrested in Paris and detained to await hearing for his extradition to Italy. His counsel immediately appealed for his release. On March 3rd, the court granted a conditional release until his hearing scheduled for May 12, 2004. Since his arrest, he must report to the police weekly and cannot leave Paris nor even enter any airport.
Battisti's counsel and we are shocked by this situation. He has already been subjected to this same procedure in 1982. The court then decided that the Italian request of extradition would contradict Mitterand's promise, and Battisti was ultimately allowed to remain in France.
The Italian government has no new evidence against Battisti, so that he has to face a new hearing is both excessive and absurd. This is because France has a law that states that no one shall be tried twice for the same crime without new evidence.
The French government's decision to allow former Italian activists to reside in France was made in response to emergency legislations adopted by Italy in the 1970s. The crimes committed at this time within the frame of what was considered a "rebellion against the state" were treated under special laws that prescribed heavier sentences for certain crimes. Morover, the "Repentant Act" reduced sentences for those who would testify against others. One can imagine the reliability of such testimonies. This was further enhanced by a "Dissociation Act" which made possible for the accused to plead guilty based not upon evidence, but upon repentants' testimonies. Under the Italian judiciary system, the guilt of the accused must be established by prosecutors in front of the court.
In Cesare's situation, the Italian governement convicted him in his absence with only repentant's testimonies. He is accused to be involved in four murders, two of which where committed within hours of each other, but in two cities miles apart! Battisti's case would set a precedent in betraying Mitterand's promise making all 150 vulnerable to these same procedures.
We remain mobilized to prevent the extradition of the Italian refugees who were guaranteed resident status in France. We demand France deny extradition requests by the Italian government and provide forever the security they assured them.
We encourage you to join over 23,000 others in signing our petition at http://www.mauvaisgenres.com/peti/index.php
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