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70s Revolutionary Turned-Writer Battisti Arrested


French and Italian police say 1970's revolutionary-turned-writer Cesare Battisti has been arrested in Brazil. The Leftist Italian fugitive has been eluding police since a prison break 26 years ago. Extradition proceedings were immediately set in motion after Battisti's arrest early Sunday, but it could take several months before he is handed over to Italian authorities. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

Police arrested Cesare Battisti, 52, near Rio de Janeiro's famed Copacabana beach. Brazilian officials say he offered no resistance.

Authorities say Battisti will be held in Brazil until the Supreme Court decides on Italy's extradition request, a process that could take several months.

After his arrest, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi issued a statement calling the operation "brilliant". He congratulated Italian law enforcement officials who, he said, cooperated with Brazilian and French authorities to bring the long-standing fugitive to justice.

Italian prefect Carlo De Stefano described how Battisti was able to avoid capture for so many years.

De Stefano said Battisti moved around a lot, changing homes and cell phone cards, and so finding and identifying him was not easy. But in the end, he said, they were successful.

Battisti was convicted in absentia in Italy in 1981 for four murders. Those and several robberies were part of his activities with the radical group, the Armed Proletarians for Communism, close to the Red Brigades.

Battisti escaped from prison in Italy in 1981. He fled first to Mexico and then took refuge in France, where he reinvented himself as a writer.

Proclaiming his innocence, he lived there for more than a decade until France changed its policy of allowing fugitive Italian militants to remain in the country if they renounced violence.

Battisti fled France in 2004 when an extradition order was signed that would have sent him back to Italy. Since then it's believed that he has been living illegally in Brazil until his arrest Sunday morning.

In a book published in France a year ago, Battisti admitted having belonged to an armed terrorist group but denied killing anyone and reiterated his claim of innocence.

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