Brazil’s Supreme Frees Italian Terrorist While 400 Firemen Are Kept in Jail

Cesare BattistiBrazil’s Supreme Court in a 6 to 3 vote and in its fifth ruling on the Cesare Battisti case, upheld the decision by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva against the extradition of the former Italian terrorist.

Italy charged that the extradition treaty had to be complied with and that the Lula decision was in error. The main thrust of the majority opinion was that Lula made a sovereign decision and it could not be questioned.

Battisti, who was sentenced in Italy to life in prison for killing four people in the 1970s, was released from prison last night at around midnight. He had been held in the federal prison in Brasília, known as Papuda, since 2007.

In past decisions, the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that Battisti could not be granted refugee status after the minister of Justice granted him refugee status and that the extradition treaty with Italy should be respected.

However, the court also ruled that the final word on the Battisti extradition was the prerogative of president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Last night the majority went along with that understanding.

Battisti’s lawyer, Luiz Roberto Barroso, tried to explain the Brazilian point of view: “We respect  the victims of the ‘years of lead.’ No one is happy about what happened. But it must be understood that Brazil is a country with a humanistic tradition and the idea of punishing someone for something that happened 32 years ago during an ideological struggle just runs counter to that tradition,” said Barroso, adding that Brazil is a country that gave amnesty to both sides in its ideological struggle that took place during the military dictatorship: 1964-85 and that Brazil is not a punitive country.

“Italy must comprehend the Brazilian situation, how our Supreme Court operates and turns the page. I believe that in a short time this will be overcome,” the lawyer concluded.

It is expected that Battisti will not have any problems getting the proper documents that will allow him to remain in Brazil.

The three justices who dissented from the majority opinion did so with unusual vigor – and some anger. Justice Gilmar Mendes called the act by former president Lula denying extradition “illegal.”

Chief Justice Cezar Peluso sentenced: “The treaty [the extradition treaty Brazil has with Italy] is binding. The president of the republic has no political liberty at all in this matter.”

Justice Ellen Gracie complained that Lula’s decision to let Battisti stay in Brazil counteracted Brazilian jurisprudence that repudiated terrorism.

And she attacked the Government Legal Office (Advocacia-Geral da União – AGU) for the legal brief that Lula used to base his decision on calling it hypothetical and “unworthy of the institution.”

A number of the justices pointed out that the Brazilian Supreme Court was not the proper place for Italy to question a decision by the president of Brazil, saying that an international court would be more adequate.

Firemen to Remain in Jail

Meanwhile, judge Ana Paula Monte Figueiredo Pena Barros, at the Rio Military Justice Court denied a motion to relax the imprisonment of 431 firemen who were arrested on Saturday, June 4, after invading the Fire Department headquarters during a protest as part of a strike for better salaries and working conditions.

The motion was filed by Rio public defense lawyers. 439 firemen were arrested, but eight of them, considered the ringleaders, are being held separately. The public defenders do not have access to them.

In her ruling, the judge said that the arrest (in flagrante delicto) was perfectly legal. She went on to say that holding the firemen in custody “…was essential to ensuring public order, convenient for due process and necessary for maintaining the principles of hierarchy and military discipline, all of which have been threatened [by the actions of the firemen].”

She concluded saying that by invading the headquarters building, disrespecting superior officers, damaging public property, subverting the order assured in the constitution and creating a situation that required the intervention of Military Police, “the firemen exceeded, greatly exceeded, their right to express labor grievances so as to obtain better conditions in their personal and professional lives.”

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