Carla Bruni, the glamorous wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, has sparked an outcry after influencing the French president to stop the extradition of a terrorist to Italy.
A French court approved the extradition to Italy and an order to this effect was signed by the French prime minister.
However, France's First Lady visited Marina Petrella, a wanted Red Brigades terrorist who killed a police chief, and assured her that "you will not be extradited".
"I have a message from my husband - you will not be extradited," Carla was quoted as telling Petrella by the Mail online.
The former supermodel was asked by her sister Valeria to block an Italian request to have convicted murderer Petrella, who is lodged a Paris hospital, sent back to Rome after more than 15 years on the run in France.
The move to halt the extradition has kicked up a row, with Italian officials saying Franco-Italian relations had been 'severely damaged'.
Government circles in Rome are amazed that Carla was involved in the row as the Bruni family had fled Italy in the early 1970s over terrorism fears.
"It has amazed everyone considering that they are Italian citizens who left Italy because their father, an industrialist, feared they were possible kidnap targets by the Red Brigades," an official at the Ministry of Justice in Rome said.
Italian lawmaker Luigi Lusi said: "It will severely shake relations between the two countries. It will reopen wounds for many families who are victims of terrorism."