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Brazil's Supreme Court defends gov't decision to grant political asylum to Italian writer
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16:02, February 11, 2009

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Brazil's Supreme Federal Court on Tuesday denied the Italian government's request to revoke the political refugee status granted to Italian writer Cesare Battisti.

Brazilian Justice Minister Tarso Genro's decision in January to grant political asylum to Battisti was based on a fear of persecution if he was sent back to Italy. It caused an uproar in Italy where the writer is considered a terrorist, and led to relations being strained between the two countries.

Battisti, a former member of Italy's armed group Armed Proletarians for Communism which was founded in 1976, received a life sentence in Italy for four murders committed in the 1970s. The writer denied all accusations, claiming that he had already left the group by the time the murders were committed.

The Supreme Court will rule Wednesday on whether Genro's decision violated Brazilian law.

"I think the Supreme Court will maintain (the decision), because of similar cases in the past," Genro said, referring to the case of Colombian priest Oliverio Medina, who was granted asylum in 2006.

The Italian government said Genro's decision not only disrespected the Brazilian Constitution, which forbids the granting of political asylum to people convicted for terrorism, but also violated the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

The Italian government also asked the European Union to become involved in the case, and the European Parliament formally requested Brazil last Thursday to review its decision.


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