Latin America & Caribbean

Cesare Battisti extradition: Italy recalls Brazil envoy

Cesare Battisti leaves Brazil's Papuda prison on 9/6/11
Image caption Cesare Battisti has been on the run since 1981

Italy has recalled its ambassador to Brazil after the country refused to extradite an Italian fugitive.

Italy says it will contest Brazil's decision on Cesare Battisti before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that Brazil's ruling had been a "political decision, not a legal one".

The former left-wing rebel escaped from an Italian jail in 1981, while awaiting trial for four murders in the 1970s.

Convincted of murder in absentia in 1990, the 56-year-old insists he is the victim of political persecution in Italy.

He has always denied the charges against him and walked free after the ruling from Brazil's supreme court.

"Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has decided on the temporary recall to Rome for consultations of the ambassador to Brasil, Gherardo La Francesca," the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Mr Frattini said he hoped Italy's appeal to the international court would return Battisti to his face justice in his homeland.

"What we have failed to achieve through the national judicial route we can achieve through the international judicial route," he said.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva denied Italy's extradition request a day before he left office in January - a move that caused outrage in Italy, which withdrew its ambassador.

The nine Supreme Court judges voted on Thursday to confirm ex-President Lula's decision to deny the extradition, ruling that the decision complied with a bilateral treaty, and that Italy did not have have the legal standing to challenge the former president's decision.

Battisti has been a fugitive since escaping jail in Italy - living for many years in France, where he started a career as a novelist, before moving to Mexico and finally Brazil.

He was released from the Papuda maximum-security prison within hours of the ruling.

Italy says the former member of the radical Armed Proletarians for Communism (PAC) is a terrorist.

Battisti insists that he is guilty only of being involved in "an armed group with a subversive aim and of having carried weapons", not of shooting anyone.

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