Extradition of terror fugitives from France possible says Mattarella

Extradition of terror fugitives from France possible says Mattarella

Italy and France enjoy historically strong ties and will find an accord on the extradition of far-left terrorism suspects who fled from Italy in the early 1980s, head of state Sergio Mattarella was on Friday quoted as telling a French magazine.

Italy and France which are "so close for their judicial systems and their history, will be able to reach an accord on such a delicate issue as extraditions," Mattarella told the quarterly Politique Internationale magazine.

"Our country suffered a lot during what are known as the years of lead," Mattarella said.

He was referring to over a decade of turmoil that began in the late 1960s when armed groups on the far right and far left staged bombings, kidnappings and assassinations in which nearly 400 people died. Victims of the violence included trade unionists, judges, journalists, policemen and elected officials.

Italy had been successful in ending the terrorism of those years without resorting to states of emergency or "compromising democracy and rights," Mattarella said.

"This is why the need for justice is so strongly felt today by the Italian people," he underlined.

Italy and France's justice ministries have been holding talks in recent months over the cases of at least 15 far-left terrorism suspects who have been living in France for decades, whom Italy wants to extradite.

In the early 1980s, the twilight of the 'years of lead', up to 300 members of left-wing groups fled to France, where they received protection under a policy that judged they could not be assured of fair treatment in Italy’s justice system.

One of the most famous of these fugitives was Cesare Battisti, who also lived in Mexico and Brazil for many years before fleeing to Bolivia, where he was arrested and extradited to Italy in January.