Matteo Salvini has called on French President Emmanuel Macron to detain and hand over dozens of Italian fugitive militants who are believed to have been hiding in France for decades.
“I think it is time to write to the French president to ask him to stop allowing terrorists who have killed Italians to go around free and drink champagne in France”, Salvini said.
Fifty Italian militants are thought to have taken refuge in France to avoid convictions for murders and bombings.
Battisti, a former militant wanted by the Italian authorities for four murders committed in the late 1970s, was arrested in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra over the weekend, and is now expected to serve a life sentence in Italy.
Battisti spent almost twenty years on the run in Mexico and France, where he was protected by the 1985 Mitterrand doctrine, a policy established by French President François Mitterand that offered asylum to former Italian guerrillas on the condition that they renounce their past crimes.
In 2004, Battisti skipped bail in France and eventually moved to Brazil, where he lived for three years until he was detained in 2007 in Rio de Janiero. Four years later, Brazil’s outgoing president, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, issued a decree refusing to extradite Battisti to Italy, and he was freed.
Shortly after Jair Bolsonaro was elected Brazil’s president in October 2018, he promised Salvini to extradite Battisti to serve his prison term. A Brazilian court ordered his arrest last month, and he was eventually found in Bolivia.
This is not the first time that Salvini has publicly called out Macron: most recently, the Italian minister described the French president as a “problem for French people”, referring to the ongoing “Yellow Vests” protests against government policies that have been raging across France since mid-November.
The rift between France and Italy emerged last summer after Rome refused to accept hundreds of undocumented migrants rescued at sea. The decision prompted President Macron to accuse the Italian government of an “irresponsible” and “cynical” response to the crisis over the Aquarius vessel.
Rome, in turn, lashed out at Paris for forcing migrants who had reached France to return back to Italy, the country which had been the first landing point for refugees arriving by sea.