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16 Jan, 2019 05:23

'They should rot in jail, not drink champagne': Salvini calls on Macron to stop shielding fugitives

'They should rot in jail, not drink champagne': Salvini calls on Macron to stop shielding fugitives

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has called on French President Emmanuel Macron to hand over ex-communist militants who are said to be living in France instead of serving time in jail for murder and other historic crimes.

"I appeal to the French president to return to Italy the fugitives that should not be drinking champagne under the Eiffel Tower, but should be rotting in jail in Italy," Salvini, leader of the right-wing Lega Nord party, told Canale 5 TV on Tuesday.

He has recently embarked on a crusade to return some 50 "red" fugitives who are scattered around the world. Nine of them are reportedly hiding in France, shielded by former French president Francois Mitterrand's doctrine that prohibited the extradition of leftist guerillas, citing Italy's allegedly rigged justice system. The doctrine has been defunct since the 2000s, but the fugitives, according to Salvini, continue to enjoy a carefree life in France.

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The Italian minister did not identify the criminals by name, but noted that a member of the Red Brigades responsible for the kidnapping and killing of former Italian PM Aldo Moro in 1978 might be watching the broadcast from France.

Salvini said that fugitives, "red or black," who "killed in the name of their crazy ideology" and must be brought to justice, also live in Nicaragua and other South American countries.

The French Justice Ministry said that it would "analyze in detail" the list of fugitives to be provided by the Italian government and decide on extradition requests "on a case-by-case basis."

In his appeal to the French government, Salvini likely hoped to capitalize on the success of his ministry's cooperation with the new Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, who facilitated the extradition of Cesare Battisti from Bolivia to Italy. The 64-year-old former member of the far-left Proletarians for Communism (PAC) was on the run for nearly 38 years, having escaped France in 1981 when he was awaiting trial for four murders.

Battisti first fled to France, then to Mexico, before being granted refugee status by former left-wing Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2010. After his status was revoked under the new government, he fled to Bolivia, but President Evo Morales refused to grant him asylum.

Salvini thanked Bolsonaro for the "gift" and courted controversy at home by arriving at the airport to personally welcome Battisti together with Minister of Justice Alfonso Bonafede. As he stood on the tarmac, Salvini said he had waited for 37 years to "see this fool.""Now he will rot in jail," he said.

Salvini's party, the League, separately appealed to Macron to bring back famous fugitive Giorgio Pietrostefani, who was sentenced to 22 years for the murder of police officer Luigi Calabresi in 1972, triggering a spate of political violence.

The request from Salvini comes as he and Macron are embroiled in a long-running public feud. Back in August, Salvini accused Macron of "preaching lessons to foreign governments" while unwilling to help other European nations with the migrant influx. The French president returned the jibe, saying that Salvini, as well as Hungary's right-wing PM Victor Orban, were "right to consider him a threat."

The row between the two politicians has deepened recently with Salvini voicing support for the 'Yellow Vest' protesters in France, and calling Macron "a president [who is] against his own people."

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