In the spring of 2021, after months of negotiations, President Emmanuel Macron had decided to promote the execution of the extradition requests for these two women and eight men, renewed a year earlier by Rome.
These ten activists, now aged 61 to 78, were wanted by Italy for “acts of terrorism” in the 1970s and 80s.
But the investigating chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal issued an unfavorable opinion on their handing over to Italy, relying on respect for the right to private and family life and on respect for the right to a fair trial (Articles 8 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights).
The president dismissed the additional information requested by the two advocates general with regard to the date of the facts and the duration of the procedure, she added.
When the decision was announced, the ex-militants hugged their relatives present in the courtroom.
“It is the triumph of the law of rights, humanity and justice against reason of state”, rejoiced Me Irène Terrel, who defends seven of the former activists, including the media Marina Petrella.
That President Emmanuel Macron ordered the arrest of the ten former activists last year was “a betrayal of the word given and a total lack of knowledge of what an amnesty is”, considered Me Jean-Louis Chalanset, lawyer by Enzo Calvitti.
The three extradition requests for Sergio Tornaghi “have all been rejected by courts of appeal in France”, recalled his lawyer Me Antoine Comte. “From my point of view, the Italians must be able to settle their history and examine their past”.
A time of violent social struggles, the “years of lead”, marked by an escalation between ultra-right and ultra-left made up of a myriad of revolutionary groups, including the Red Brigades, resulted in more than 360 deaths attributed to both sides, thousands of injured, 10,000 arrests and 5,000 convictions.
The decision of the French justice was awaited “for a long time by the victims and the whole country, concerning a dramatic and still painful page of our History”, commented the Italian Minister of Justice, Marta Cartabia.
This decision is a “slap in the face”, indignant Italian far-right politician Matteo Salvini.
“These murderers have never paid their bill to Italian justice and in light of today’s decision, they probably never will,” said Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers in Italy, lamenting a decision “unacceptable and shameful”.
– Doctrine Mitterrand –
During the hearings which took place from March 23 to June 15, the former militants agreeing to speak told the magistrates about their life in France for sometimes forty years.
All believed they were protected by the Mitterrand doctrine, they argued. Socialist President François Mitterrand (1981-1995) promised not to extradite former activists who had broken with their past.
The presence in France of these former militants has poisoned relations between France and Italy since the 1980s.
“It is a historic moment in the Franco-Italian relationship” and “an awareness by France, after years of procrastination, even a certain complacency, of the trauma of the years of lead”, had welcomed the Elysée during the arrests.
Emmanuel Macron “wanted to settle this subject. These arrests completely close this file”, added the presidency.
The decision to order these ten arrests “is a sign of full understanding of the dramas experienced in our country during the years of lead and above all of the confidence of the French government” in Italian institutions, Minister Cartabia said on Wednesday.
In a press release, the Attorney General at the Court of Appeal Rémy Heitz indicated that the decisions were “likely to be appealed in cassation”.
“The French judicial authority has ruled supremely and the Ministry of Justice does not have to comment on this decision”, declared the Chancellery, requested by AFP, while affirming “the high level of mutual trust between the French authorities and the Italian authorities who share a demanding conception of the rule of law”.
Italian state lawyer William Julié said he was waiting for the position of the public prosecutor’s office and the details of the court’s motivations.