SAO PAULO – Brazil's outgoing President Michel Temer signed a decree Friday ordering the extradition of an Italian communist militant convicted of murder in his home country.
The decree was signed one day after Supreme Federal Tribunal Justice Luiz Fux ordered the arrest of Cesare Battisti and said that the president would have the final word over his extradition to Italy.
The presidential press office confirmed the extradition decree but provided no additional detail.
Battisti escaped from Italian prison in 1981 while awaiting trial on four counts of murder allegedly committed when he was a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism. He was convicted in absentia in 1990.
He has acknowledged membership in the group but has denied killing anyone.
Battisti lived in France and Mexico before escaping to Brazil to avoid being extradited. He was arrested in Rio de Janeiro in 2007, prompting the Italian government to request that he be handed over.
But former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva granted him asylum in 2010.
Battisti was eventually released from jail, but was arrested again in 2017 after he was caught trying to cross the Brazil-Bolivia border carrying the equivalent of about $7,500 in undeclared cash. He was released the second time after a few days.
As a result of that incident, Fux said that Interpol had issued the latest request for Battisti's arrest on tax evasion and money laundering charges, leading him to issue the Brazilian warrant. He said an arrest would "allow for the re-examination" of "his permanence in the country."
Battisti's lawyer Igor Tamasauskas had no immediate response to a request for comment from The Associated Press, but the G1 news portal quoted him as saying, "I have no information on his whereabouts."
"I know he lives in Cananeia (a coastal city in Sao Paulo state), but I do not know where he is at this moment," Tamasauskas said.
Police said they searched for Battisti at his home, but the house was shuttered and there were no signs of anyone inside.
Battisti has been living in Cananeia since 2015.
Italy's head of state, President Sergio Mattarella, thanked Temer for his decision on the Battisti case.
"Your gesture constitutes significant witness to the ancient and solid friendship between Brazil and Italy, and is testimony to the sensibility about a complex and delicate matter that arouses feelings of intense involvement by the public opinion of our country," Mattarella said in a statement released by the presidential Quirinal Palace Friday night.