Italian red brigade members extradited from France decades later

In a coordinated operation with Italy, France arrested 7 people considered as terrorists during the troubled Years of Lead, decades after their convictions.

5 ex-members of the Brigate Rosse

Seven Italians were arrested in France on April 28 to be extradited at the request of Italy.

On Facebook, Luigi di Maio, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, greeted the success of the operation called “Red shadow” against “people who were convicted of terrorist acts linked to blood crimes in Italy between the 70s and 80s“.

According to ANSA, the Italian news agency, 5 of them were members of the Red Brigade. Giorgio Pietrostefani, founder of Lotta Continua, another extra-parliamentary far-left organization, and Narciso Marendi from “Proletari Armati per il Comunismo” were also arrested. Four out of seven were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Italian justice. Three persons go missing.

Marina Petrella, a former member of the Red Brigade is one of the 2 women arrested during the operation. She had already been held by the police in 2007 before Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President at the time who had recently married the Italian model and singer Carla Bruni, called off the extradition in 2008 because of humanitarian reasons.

Aldo Moro, former Prime Minister of Italy, was kidnapped and killed by the Red Brigades in 1978
Aldo Moro, former Prime Minister of Italy, was kidnapped and killed by the Red Brigades in 1978

The Mitterrand doctrine

The Red Brigade was an Italian far-left organization active in the 70s and 80s during the Years of Lead, a troubled period with politically extremist violence in Italy. Italy consider them as terrorists and many had fled to France where they could live almost freely.

In 1985, the French left-wing president, François Mitterrand, accepted Italian political activists following a dogma called after his name: the “Mitterrand doctrine“. France would not extradite former members of political organizations, such as the “Brigate Rosse“, who had cut their links with violence, and under the condition that they didn’t commit “bloody crimes“.

Narciso Marendi lived in Châlette-sur-Loing, a small town of 10,000 people in the center of France. Married with 3 children, he was self-employed as as a janitor for the elderly, dependent or disabled people. In 1986, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for leading a squad who killed a policeman in 1979 in Bergamo. France had refused his extradition in 1987. In 2019, in an interview in Corriere della Sera, he claimed he was innocent and blamed the poor Italian justice system at the time of the decision. He considered that after 40 years, it was time to move on – as he did – and provide a general amnisty. He also considered that the French justice was much different from the Bolivian or the Brazilian ones, referring to what happened to another member of “Proletari Armati per il Comunismo“, Cesare Battisti.

Narciso Manenti in Paris. He fled to Italy in 1983 and was arrested in 2021
Narciso Manenti in Paris. He fled to Italy in 1983 and was arrested in 2021 | Corriere della Sera

7 arrests in a list of 200

Cesare Battisti, is one of the most famous figures who largely benefited from the Mitterrand doctrine. After a short stay in France and several years in Mexico, Cesare Battisti came to France in 1990. Despite being convicted in absentia of murder by the Italian justice, he lived in France until 2004. He had a job as a building caretaker and also wrote several fictional books. France accepted the extradition request in 2004 but Cesare Battisti fled to Brazil before being arrested in Bolivia in 2015. He eventually admitted killing 3 people and said he fooled some in the French intelligentsia who supported him as a “freedom fighter” or believed he was innocent. He is serving his life imprisonment sentence.

Eric Dupond-Moretti, the French Minister of Justice and criminal defence lawyer, said he was “proud to have provided support” and has “no qualms” regarding the operation leading to the arrest of 7 Italians. Son of an Italian mother, he pointed out that France followed the Mitterrand doctrine and would still evaluate decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Italy sent a list of 200 people for France to extradite.

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