France arrests seven Italians convicted of far-left terrorism | France


Seven Italian far-left guerrilla fighters, who hid in France for decades after escaping terrorism convictions that left “an open wound” in Italy, have been arrested.

French authorities are also searching for three other Italians convicted on terrorism charges linked to bombings and assassinations between the late 1960s and early 1980s.

The Italian government has been urging France for years to arrest and extradite the fugitives, who were identified in the Italian media as Marina Petrella, Giovanni Alimonti, Enzo Calvitti, Roberta Cappelli, Sergio Tornaghi, Giorgio Pietrostefani and Narciso Manenti.

The three who have so far managed to evade arrest were named as Luigi Bergamin, Maurizio Di Marzio and Raffaele Ventura.

Five of the fugitives belonged to the far-left Red Brigades, which fought against rightwing militants during a period of political and social turmoil known as “the years of lead”. Hundreds of people were murdered, including the former prime minister Aldo Moro, who was kidnapped and killed by the Red Brigades in 1978.

Under the “Mitterrand doctrine”, France allowed the convicted terrorists to remain in the country and avoid extradition to Italy so long as they promised to renounce violence.

The arrests came after a meeting on 8 April between Italy’s justice minister, Marta Cartabia, and her French counterpart, Éric Dupond-Moretti, which was followed by a phone call the next day between the Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

“During the meeting with Dupond-Moretti, Cartabia reiterated that the extraditions were a priority for Italy and needed to be done quickly because the statute of limitations for the crimes are due to expire,” a spokesperson for the Italian minister said.

Draghi said in a statement on Wednesday: “The government expresses satisfaction with France’s decision to initiate judicial procedures, requested by the Italian side, against those responsible for very serious terrorist crimes, which have left an open wound. The memory of those barbaric acts is alive in the conscience of Italians.”

A statement from Macron’s office said his administration had wanted to resolve an issue that has long stoked tension with Rome. “France, which is also affected by terrorism, understands the absolute need to provide justice for victims,” the statement said. “It is also part of the absolute need to build a Europe of justice in which mutual confidence must be central.”

Cappelli and Petrella, both from Rome, were given life sentences for their involvement in the murder of Gen Enrico Gavaligi in 1980. Cappelli was also convicted of the murder of the security guard Michele Granato in 1979 and injuring two police officers.

Petrella was also convicted of kidnapping the justice ministry magistrate Giovanni D’Urso, who was held captive for 35 days in 1980.

Tornaghi, from Milan, was sentenced to life in prison for murder, and Calvitti and Alimonti were given prison terms of 11 years and 18 years respectively for crimes including attempted murder.

Pietrostefani, a militant with Lotta Continua, which was a far-left extra-parliamentary organisation, and Manenti, a member of another leftwing extremist group, Nuclei Armati, were also given jail terms for murder.

Italy’s foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, said: “You cannot flee from your responsibilities, from pain caused, from the evil generated.”

The former leftwing terrorist Cesare Battisti was extradited to Italy in 2019 from Brazil, where he had been on the run for almost four decades. Battisti was convicted in 1979 of belonging to the outlawed Armed Proletarians for Communism, but he escaped from prison in Italy in 1981. He was subsequently convicted in absentia of killing two police officers, taking part in the murder of a butcher and helping to plan the killing of a jeweller.



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