French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has come under fire for allegedly intervening to prevent the extradition of a left-wing terrorist convicted of four murders from Brazil to Italy.
Battisti has been convicted in his absence of four murders and sentenced to life but denies all the killings.
Bruni-Sarkozy, 43, was accused by an Italian victim support group of personally calling former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and asking him not to send Cesare Battisti back to his native country for being tried.
Lula was told it would be a ‘personal favour’. The alleged intervention was criticised by Italian politicians.
Bruno Berardi, president of Domus Civitas, said on Italian TV that Bruni-Sarkozy had intervened in another extradition – that of Marina Petrella, from France to Italy three years ago.
France had refused to extradite seriously ill Petrella on "humanitarian grounds"."Bruni told me that she had personally called Lula asking him not to extradite Battisti as a personal favour," the Telegraph quoted Berardi as saying.
"She asked me not to reveal any details during a conversation the two of us had and which was also attended by president (Nicolas) Sarkozy's secretary.
"I have never told anyone about this but seeing as we have reached the point where we are now and all hope of extraditing Battisti is lost I have decided to speak," he said.
Daniela Santanche, a member of Berlusconi''s right wing coalition, said, "If it is confirmed that Carla Bruni intervened she should be ashamed of herself."
Defence minister Ignazio La Russa said, "If Carla Bruni did intervene then I will have no hesitation in taking her to task."
Battisti has refugee status in Brazil. He is currently in prison although he may be freed shortly. Italy is trying to block his release and take the case to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.