Cesare Battisti
Brazil's Supreme Court frees Italian fugitive Cesare Battisti Reuters

The Brazilian Supreme Court ruled this week that the country would not extradite ex-gangster and convicted murder Cesare Battisti to his home country of Italy.

In a six-to-three vote, the court decided to uphold a December 2010 ruling by former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Battisti, who is wanted in Italy for his involvement in four political murders in the 1970s, has been in Brazilian prisons for four years. This week's court ruling will free the fugitive, who maintains his innocence.

The Italian government was outraged by the decision and recalled its Brazilian ambassador Gherardo La Francesca to Rome. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano condemned the ruling, calling it an affront to bilateral accords between the nations.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi echoed the President's remarks, saying the decision wounds our sense of justice and also those who have suffered in those cases.

In the 1970s, Battisti was a member of the radical leftist group Proletari Armati per il Comunismo (Armed Proletarians for Communism) -- or PAC -- who were perpetrators of politically charged crimes. In 1979, Battisti was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his association with the group, but he escaped in 1981.

He then fled to France, where he was arrested for his involvement in four Italian political murders from his PAC days.Meanwhile, he was convicted in absentia in Italy in 1990 for the assassinations and sentenced to life in prison. After five months, the French government released Battisti and refused to extradite him. The ex-terrorist then became a successful crime-novelist.

When France and Italy reached an extradition agreement, Battisti fled to Brazil, where he was arrested in 2007. He has been in Brazilian custody since.