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France’s highest court refuses extradition of far-left Italian militants

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France’s highest court has refused the extradition of former far-left Italian militants who were convicted of attacks carried out in the 1970s and 1980s.

The two women and eight men fled Italy after their convictions and before they could be sent to prison. Now ranging in age from 62 to 79, they have lived freely in France for decades.

The crimes of which they were convicted include the killing of a Carabinieri paramilitary general and the kidnapping of a judge, both in 1980.

Last June, an appeal was launched against a Paris court ruling rejecting the extradition. Tuesday’s decision is the final French legal ruling on the decades-long affair.

Resistance by French authorities to incarcerating the Italians has long been a thorny issue between Paris and Rome.

Over the years, Italy has sought the extradition of around 200 convicted former militants believed to be in France.

Under a 1980s policy known as the “Mitterrand doctrine,” named after then-president Francois Mitterrand, France refused to extradite Italian far-left activists unless there was evidence that they committed “crimes of blood”, an opaquely worded term that Italian authorities have challenged.

Italian officials have said the doctrine was based on the false French notion that Italy respects democratic freedoms less than France.

All 10 people involved in Tuesday’s court ruling, some of whom were linked with the deadly Red Brigades group, were convicted in Italy of crimes dating to the 1970s and 1980s.

Among the group is Giorgio Petrostefani, a militant from the far-left group Lotta Continua (The Struggle Continues).

He was convicted of the 1972 killing of Milan police chief Luigi Calabresi and sentenced to 22 years in prison.

The police chief was shot three times from behind while he walked to his car. His murder was one of the more notorious crimes during the so-called “Years of Lead″, the period when acts of terrorism committed by the extreme right and the extreme left caused deaths across Italy.

Calabresi had led the interrogation of Giuseppe Pinelli, a suspected anarchist, about the 1969 bombing of a Milan bank that killed 17 people. Pinelli fell to his death from the 4th floor of police headquarters, an event that inspired a play and a movie.

Another Italian whom the court cleared to remain in France was a former member of the Armed Cells Against Territorial Power who was convicted of the 1979 killing of a Carabinieri police officer.

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