ROME, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Italy says a refusal by Brazil's president to extradite a convicted murderer-turned-author was "a very bad end to the term of a great president of Brazil."
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose term as president of Brazil ended Dec. 31, issued a last-minute refusal that day to an extradition request from Italy to return Cesare Battisti, ANSA reported Monday.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said bringing Battisti back to serve his life term for four murders committed in the 1970s when he was a leftist militant was "a moral duty."
Battisti was arrested in Brazil in April 2007, five years after he fled to that country to avoid extradition to Italy from France following the end of a French policy that had provided him sanctuary.
He had lived in France for 15 years and become a successful crime novelist.
In January 2009, the Brazilian Justice Ministry granted Battisti political asylum, saying he would face "political persecution" in Italy.
The Italian government demanded the ruling be taken to the Brazilian supreme court, which in November 2009 reversed the earlier decision and turned down Battisti's request for asylum.
However, the court noted the Brazilian constitution gave the president personal powers to deny the extradition if he so chose.
Frattini hailed the Brazilian supreme court's recent decision to reject Battisti's request for immediate release and said he hoped Italy would get the court to rule again in favor of extradition as it did in 2009, before leaving the final say to Lula.
"I trust (the court) will not go back on the decision we obtained," he said.
Brazil's main opposition party has called for a reversal of the extradition denial issued by Lula.