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France’s highest court ruled Tuesday against extraditing 10 former far-left militants who were convicted of attacks in Italy carried out in the 1970s and 1980s.
The two women and eight men fled Italy after their convictions and before they could be sent to prison. Now ranging in age from 62 to 79, they have lived freely in France for decades.
The crimes of which they were convicted include the killing of a Carabinieri paramilitary general and the kidnapping of a judge, both in 1980.
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A Paris court also had ruled against their extraditions, and the decision was appealed last year. But Tuesday’s decision by the Court of Cassation is the final French legal ruling on the decades-long affair.
Italy’s justice minister, Carlo Nordio, said Italy “had done everything in its power” to remove the political obstacles that had guided the French policy allowing the militants to live freely in France, and took note of the court’s final decision.
In a statement carried by LaPresse news agency, Nordio praised the efforts of his French counterpart, Eric Dupond-Moretti, for having responded to Italy’s requests for justice.
Resistance by French authorities to incarcerating the Italians has long been a thorny issue between Paris and Rome.
Over the years, Italy has sought the extradition of around 200 convicted former militants believed to be in France.
Marina Petrella (second left) is among ten Italian terrorists whom France declined to extradite over attacks conducted in the 1970s and 1980s. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
Under a 1980s policy known as the “Mitterrand doctrine,” named after Socialist then-President Francois Mitterrand, France refused to extradite Italian far-left activists unless there was evidence that they committed “crimes of blood.”
Italian officials have challenged that criteria as too vague and said the doctrine was based on the false notion that Italy respects democratic freedoms less than France.
Most of the 10 people who were the subject of the extradition requests the Court of Cassation rejected were dramatically arrested at their homes in France in April, 2021, a development Italy hailed as historic. They were held in French judicial supervision since then.
Some of them were linked with the Red Brigades group, which during the 1970s and 1980s carried out killings kidnappings and “kneecappings,” in which targets were shot in the legs.
The court also refused to extradite Ciorgio Petrostefani, a militant from the far-left group Lotta Continua, which in English means The Struggle Continues. He was convicted of the 1972 slaying of Milan Police Chief Luigi Calabresi and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
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The police chief was shot three times from behind while he walked to his car. His slaying was one of the more notorious crimes during the so-called “Years of Lead,″ the period when acts of terrorism committed by the extreme right and the extreme left bloodied Italy.
Before his death, Calabresi had led the interrogation of Giuseppe Pinelli, a suspected anarchist, about the 1969 bombing of a Milan bank that killed 17 people. Pinelli fell to his death from the 4th floor of police headquarters, an event that inspired a play and a movie.
Another Italian whom the court cleared to remain in France was a former member of the Armed Cells Against Territorial Power who was convicted of the 1979 killing of a Carabinieri police officer.
Adriano Sabbadin, whose father — a butcher — was killed in 1997, said he was “disgusted” by the French court’s decision. “Let the judges tell us: who are the guilty ones? They have dead people on their consciences,” the ANSA news agency quoted him as saying.
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The Italian justice minister Nordio, a former prosecutor, offered his thoughts to the families of the victims “of that bloody season, who waited for years along with the entire country for a response from the French judiciary.”