ROME, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Italy says it's surprised and disappointed by Brazil's decision to grant political asylum to 1970s leftist terror gang member Cesare Battisti.
Battisti, 54, was arrested in Brazil last March, four years after he fled there hoping to avoid extradition to Italy from France. Brazil's decision to grant Battisti political asylum this week brought an indignant reaction from Italy's foreign ministry, ANSA, the Italian news agency, reported Wednesday.
Italy, the ministry said, was "very surprised and disappointed over the decision by the Brazilian justice minister who, ignoring the position of the National Committee for Refugees, granted an appeal by Cesare Battisti, a convicted terrorist responsible for serious crimes which have nothing to do with the status of a political refugee."
ANSA said Brazilian officials explained their decision was based on a 1951 statute and a subsequent 1997 law defined the guidelines for granting asylum as including "the real threat of persecution due to race … or political opinion."
Battisti, a former member of the terrorist Armed Proletarians for Communism, was condemned for committing several murders in Italy in the late 1970s, but has always denied them.