October 4, 2017 / 7:15 PM / 2 years ago

Brazil detains Italian fugitive Battisti leaving country

FILE PHOTO: Italian former leftist guerrilla Cesare Battisti leaves the headquarters of the Federal Police in Sao Paulo, Brazil March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian highway police on Wednesday detained Cesare Battisti, an Italian former left-wing guerrilla convicted of murder in his country, as he was attempting to cross the border into Bolivia in a taxi, federal police said.

Battisti was apparently trying to leave Brazil after Italy reportedly asked Brazil’s government to revoke his asylum status and extradite him to serve his prison sentence.

He was stopped by highway police as he was about to cross the border in a Bolivian taxi and was held for possession of a “significant” quantity of undeclared foreign currency, the federal police said in a statement.

Battisti faced life in prison in Italy, where he was convicted of four murders committed in the 1970s, when he belonged to a guerrilla group called Armed Proletarians for Communism. He escaped from prison in 1981 and lived in France before fleeing to Brazil to avoid being extradited to Italy.

Battisti’s lawyer, Igor Sant’Anna, told Reuters that he had sought a habeas corpus injunction last week due to the risk that President Michel Temer’s government could agree to Italy’s request. Habeas corpus is a legal procedure that keeps a government from holding a person without showing cause.

The police statement said he was being held for breaking currency rules.

O Globo newspaper reported last week that Italy had asked the Temer government to review the status of Battisti, who was granted refugee status by former leftist President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva on his last day in office in 2010.

Lula had refused an Italian extradition request, a decision that upset relations between the two countries.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Susan Thomas and Sandra Maler

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