Paris court rejects Italy's request to extradite former leftist militants

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds up a portrait of former member of the Red Brigades Marina Petrella with the words 'no to the Extradition' during a protest in Paris July 17, 2008. extradition. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - The Paris Court of Appeal said on Wednesday it had rejected Italy's request to extradite several former leftist militants whom the French authorities arrested last year.

The court said in a statement it had thrown out the request for extradition of 10 individuals who were convicted in Italy for acts committed before 1993.

The statement cited the right to respect for private and family life and the right to a fair trial as laid out by articles 8 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

French President Emmanuel Macron's office declined to comment on the court decision, which was condemned by prominent Italian politicians.

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party which leads in opinion polls, called it "unacceptable and shameful." Her rightist ally Matteo Salvini, head of the League party, said it was "disgusting."

In April 2021, France arrested seven fugitive Italian leftist militants after harbouring them for decades following their conviction in Italy on terrorism charges. It was a turning point for Paris and Rome on an issue that had long poisoned relations.

Amongst those captured was Giorgio Pietrostefani, a co-founder of the Lotta Continua (Continuous Struggle) group, sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in the 1972 murder of Milan police commissioner Luigi Calabresi.

Calabresi's son Mario, a well-known Italian journalist, said the court's decision carried "the bitter taste of the French system, which for years has guaranteed impunity for a group of people responsible for bloody crimes."

The other six who were captured were members of the Red Brigades, including Marina Petrella, Roberta Cappelli and Sergio Tornaghi, all sentenced to life in prison for taking part in various murders and kidnappings, police said.

Pietrostefani and other individuals arrested last year were among those for whom Italy was requesting extradition, according to the court statement.

Italy has long sought the extradition of dozens of leftist guerrillas, who had been given refuge in France on condition they renounced violence following the so-called "Years of Lead"from the late 1960s to the 1980s. The period saw hundreds of people killed in violent campaigns by both far-left and far-right groups.

An adviser to Macron said last year that the arrest of the seven fugitives had been made possible by a renewed "climate of trust" between Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, after years of tension between Paris and Rome, particularly when Italy was led by a populist coalition.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Elizabeth Pineau in Paris, and Gavin Jones in Rome.; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and David Gregorio)

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