Brazil prosecutor says Italian ex-guerilla can be extradited

FILE PHOTO: Italian former leftist guerrilla Cesare Battisti leaves the headquarters of Federal Police in Sao Paulo March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's public prosecutor has told the Supreme Court that the Brazilian government can extradite Cesare Battisti, an Italian left-wing former guerrilla convicted of murder in his country.

The top court authorized Battisti's extradition in 2009, but former leftist President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva granted him refugee status on his last day in office in 2010.

In a case that has irritated diplomatic relations between the two countries ever since, Italy renewed its extradition request with the current government last year.

In a statement sent on Monday to the court, Prosecutor General Raquel Dodge rejected Battisti's defense argument that Lula's decree was irrevocable.

Dodge said Lula's decision not to extradite Battisti was political and thus it was up to President Michel Temer, and not the court, to decide whether to revoke the decree.

Battisti faces life in prison in Italy, where he was convicted of four murders committed in the 1970s, when he belonged to a guerilla group called Armed Proletarians for Communism. He escaped from prison in 1981 and lived in France before fleeing to Brazil to avoid being extradited to Italy.

The former guerrilla was briefly arrested in October when trying to leave Brazil by taxi over the border into Bolivia. He currently lives in Sao Paulo.

The Supreme Court temporarily blocked Battisti's extradition until it could rule on an injunction requested by his lawyer, who later changed tactics to argue that Lula's decree was irrevocable. The lawyer did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by James Dalgleish)