The Berlusconi Government doesn’t feel it has any responsibility with respect to the Battisti case. It has done everything in its power. And if we need to look for a fault, it lies in having failed to promote a public reflection on Italy’s true “Years of Lead”. But the blame cannot be laid at the door of our country’s entire political community. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini depends his and the executive’s work in the wake of President Napolitano’s call to order. If anything, Frattini suggests that the responsibilities of the French governments that preceded Sarkozy should be examined. Returning to the present, however, if Brazil’s high court also espouses Lula’s line, Italy will appeal to The Hague.
Minister, what was lacking in our policy to “convey a sense of what happened during our years of terrorism”, as the Head of State has lamented?
“Something was lacking, that’s true. It was a failing of Italian politics as a whole, certainly not one that concerns the last three years. We unfortunately failed to open up a public discussion – an in-depth and critical discussion – on our ‘Years of Lead’. We didn’t shine a bright enough light on the position we are now strongly asserting: that the so-called ‘combatants’ of those days, from the 1970s up to the Biagi and D’Antona murders, were fighting against the democratic system, not against a dictatorship. They were duly convicted, but we did not clarify, as we should have done, that they were and still are murderers. If anyone in Brazil thinks they can persuade us that Battisti was fighting for freedom or for a just cause, they’re making a big mistake. He is a criminal, a murderer – and one who has admitted responsibility for his murders”.
Is that all? Referring implicitly to the Battisti case, the President of the Republic seems to be questioning the role of the government.
“The President isn’t questioning our executive, which has only been in place since 2008. He is questioning Italy’s inability to stage a serious debate on terrorism on the public stage. But that’s a more general problem”.
So you would rule out any responsibility on the part of the Foreign Ministry or Palazzo Chigi [the Cabinet Office] as to how they handled the case? Did Prime Minister Berlusconi, for example, discuss it with Lula when he was still President?
“We have always acted on the basis of this being a judicial case. We felt that political exile could not be granted: Brazil’s Supreme Court accepted that view, and we won. We persisted in our campaign for extradition and that same Court declared Battisti to be extraditable”.
So what went wrong?
“The fact that, in the end, a political decision by former President Lula, on the last day of his mandate, won the day. A strongly ideological decision”.
What will you do if in February Brazil’s Supreme Court also rules out extradition?
“For the time being, we trust that won’t happen. We feel that a country like Brazil, which hopes to become a permanent member of the United Nations, doesn’t want to be dragged before the international court at The Hague. Because, mark my words, that’s the extreme route we’re ready to embark on”.
Do you place your hopes on help from Europe?
“Europe has failed to make its voice heard in this affair. We’re considering whether action is appropriate. I’ve been speaking to the competent EU commissioner, Viviane Reding, who assured me that she will study the case in greater depth”.
President Napolitano also laments the fact that we have failed to convey to our friends and neighbours the full weight of the terrorism we suffered. He seems to be referring to France.
“Well, France has given a truly bad example in recent years, the years of the Mitterrand doctrine, by virtue of which terrorists like Battisti were able to find shelter and protection on the French side of the Alps. Battisti, and other heads of terrorist organisations, or criminals cloaked by pseudo-ideologies. Take Marina Petrella, for example: she too fled to France, and the government of the time once again didn’t want to extradite her”.