France lifts protection for 10 Italian far-left terrorists – POLITICO
PARIS – The days when the French government offered protection to Italian far-left terrorists may be coming to an end.
French police on Wednesday arrested seven convicted terrorists active in the 1970s and 1980s, including former members of the Red Brigades. The French authorities are still looking for three other terrorists who have not been found at home. The 10 individuals were convicted decades ago in Italy but eventually found protection in France.
The Paris Court of Appeal will now have to decide independently on their extradition to Italy.
“France, itself affected by terrorism, understands the absolute need for justice for victims,” said an Elysee official, announcing the arrests. “It also supports, through this transmission, the imperative need to build a Europe of justice, in which mutual trust must be at the center.”
The move comes after “important bilateral preparatory work,” said the official, focused on reducing a list of 200 people initially targeted by the Italian government.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi welcomed this decision.
“The government expresses its satisfaction for France’s decision to initiate legal proceedings, requested by the Italian side, against those responsible for very serious terrorist crimes, which have left a wound still open,” Draghi said in a statement. “The memory of these barbaric acts is alive in the consciousness of Italians.”
The leader of the far-right Italian League party – currently enjoying the most domestic support, according to polls – also endorsed the arrests and urged French authorities to move forward with the extradition. “Now we want them to be in Italy”, Matteo Salvini mentionned on social networks.
Italian Justice Minister Marta Cartabia said in a statement that the French decision was “of historic significance”. She thanked her French counterpart, Eric Dupond-Moretti, for his “particular sensitivity to this dramatic page of our country and his willingness to cooperate”.
Under French Socialist President François Mitterrand, France in the 1980s offered refuge to far-left terrorists, refusing to extradite them to Italy, where particularly severe criminal laws and exceptional legal procedures had been implemented to fight against political terrorism.
But the policy – known as the “Mitterrand Doctrine” – did not necessarily apply to those involved in violent crimes, such as those arrested on Wednesday. This is why, according to the Elysee, the arrests are in accordance with doctrine.
“The 10 requests sent to the Paris Court of Appeal are strictly within the framework of the Mitterrand doctrine, since they relate to blood crimes”, explained the head of the Elysee.
The policy has traditionally been supported by the French intelligentsia. Earlier this month, a group of academics and lawyers published an opinion piece in Le Monde urging the government to uphold doctrine and not arrest former terrorists who “are now at retirement age”.
According to Italian police, the seven people arrested are: Enzo Calvitti, Giovanni Alimonti, Roberta Cappelli, Marina Petrella, Sergio Tornaghi (of the Red Brigades), Giorgio Pietrostefani (Lotta Continua), Narciso Manenti (Nuclei Armati contro il Potere territoriale.) three fugitives are Maurizio Di Marzio, Raffaele Ventura and Luigi Bergamin.
The “Mitterrand doctrine” – established by an oral declaration but never enshrined in written law – began to be gradually relaxed in the 2000s, when some Italian terrorists began to be extradited. But it was never formally repealed.
In 2007, a court in Versailles gave the green light for the extradition to Italy of Marina Petrella, one of those arrested on Wednesday. Petrella was involved in the kidnapping and murder of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978 and sentenced to life imprisonment. But the then president, Nicolas Sarkozy refuse extradition for health reasons.
Rym Momtaz and Hannah Roberts contributed reporting.