[JURIST] The Brazilian Supreme Court [official website, in Portuguese] on Wednesday voted 5-to-4 to extradite [press release, in Portuguese] former Italian guerrilla Cesare Battisti back to Italy, but left the final decision to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva [official profile, in Portuguese], who granted him asylum earlier this year. The high court has yet to decide if the order mandates Lula to extradite Battisti or merely authorizes him to do so. Early in the week, Battisti sent a letter [Reuters report] to Lula saying he would rather die in Brazil than be sent back to Italy. Lula granted Battisti political refugee status in January due to doubts about the fairness of his trial where he was convicted in absentia of four murders in the late 1970s. Battisti has firmly protested his extradition, going on a hunger strike [BBC report] last week in the Brazilian prison where he is being held. Italy considers Battisti a terrorist and has been pressuring the Brazilian government to extradite him.
Battisti was sentenced to life in prison in Italy for murders committed by the Armed Proletarians for Communism, an arm of a radical communist group known as the Red Brigades to which Battisti belonged. He escaped [BBC report] from an Italian prison in 1981 and fled to Brazil after spending ten years as a refugee in France. Battisti was arrested in Rio de Janeiro in March 2007. Other members of the Red Brigades group have been convicted for murders in Italy over the past few years. In 2005, three members, who were among five people sentenced to life in prison for the murder of government economic advisor Marco Biagi, were sentenced [JURIST reports] to another life term for the murder of Massimo D'Antona, a professor and legal consultant to the Minister of Labour. The murders occurred three years apart, but both victims were government advisers who were killed to deter reforms which would introduce greater flexibility to Italy's labor market. Four defendants were acquitted and nine other defendants received sentences ranging from four to 10 years in prison.