Cesare Battisti, 64, was convicted in absentia of murdering a policeman and a prison guard, and participating in the killings of a butcher and a jeweler who had defended themselves against left-wing militants.
He had been on the run since escaping from prison in Italy in 1981 but until his capture in January, he was protected by the French and Brazilian governments.
He confessed in jail over the weekend of March 23, magistrate Alberto Nobili said, according to local media. Battisti has previously denied any involvement in the slayings.
“When I killed, I believed it was a just war,” Battisti reportedly told Nobili.
He also confessed to assaulting three people and participating in robberies to finance the extreme left terrorist group Armed Proletarians for Communism.
“I realize the harm I have done and I apologize to the families [of the victims],” Battisti said in his confession.
Nobili said Battisti was questioned for nine hours at a high-security prison in Sardinia. He said it “felt like I was watching the liberation of someone who was initially embarrassed, troubled,” according to The Local Italy.
Years of Lead
Battisti’s killings occurred during Italy’s so-called Years of Lead, when leftist and fascist groups committed acts of violence against each other, mostly between 1970 and 1985.
After being convicted in 1979 for being part of a Marxist group, Battisti escaped from prison in Italy and fled the country.
He was protected in France by socialist President Francois Mitterand, where Battisti wrote a series of novels based on his life, claiming that he had been framed by Italy. Under the so-called Mitterrand doctrine, far-left terrorists who fled to France would not be extradited to Italy, amid distrust of the Italian courts.
The policy was repealed in 2002, following which French officials authorized the extradition of Battisti. However, he had already fled to Brazil, where he was given political asylum by socialist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The asylum ended in December 2018, with Battisti heading to Bolivia, where he was arrested in January.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said those who protected Battisti should now also apologize.
“Cesare Battisti has apologized, a few decades after the fact,” Salvini said, according to Ansa.
“Now I expect those left-wing pseudo-intellectuals who covered for and defended this squalid character to apologize too. It’s better to say sorry late than never,” Salvini said.
However, the relatives of some of Battisti’s victims were not so welcoming of his apologies.
“I think his lawyer is advising him so he can have his sentence reduced,” Maurizio Campagna, the brother of the policeman killed by Battisti, told Italian-language TV Sky TG24. The murders were “pure cowardice, not even terrorism. They were just murders made by serial killers like Battisti and his gang.”
Adriano Sabbadin, son of the murdered butcher Lino Sabbadin, told Il Dubbio he hoped Battisti would now “reflect on the evil he has done.”
Italy is also attempting to extradite 14 terrorists still believed to be in France, including Narciso Manenti, a leftist terrorist who killed a policeman in front of his teenage son in 1979. He is now reportedly an electrician in the French town of Châlette-sur-Loing, about 70 miles south of Paris.