PARIS: France on Wednesday detained seven former members of left-wing Italian extremist group the Red Brigades, in a gesture ordered by President Emmanuel Macron designed to resolve a long-standing source of tension with Rome.
France has long served as a haven for Red Brigades figures from the 1970s and 80s under a policy set by former Socialist leader Francois Mitterrand, which has caused tensions with Italy.
The so-called “Mitterrand Doctrine”, adopted in 1985, offered asylum to the extremists providing they renounced violence and were not wanted in Italy for murder or other “crimes of blood.”
A statement from the French presidency said Macron had authorised the detention of seven former Red Brigades figures, while another three were being actively sought.
Without naming them, the statement said they were wanted for the “most serious crimes” but it made clear that Macron had not renounced the Mitterrand Doctrine.
“France, also affected by terrorism, understands the absolute necessity of providing justice for victims,” the statement said.
“With this transfer, it is also part of the urgent need to build a Europe of justice in which mutual confidence must be at the centre.”
Ultra-leftist groups like the Red Brigades sowed chaos during the period in Italy known as the “Years of Lead” — named after the number of bullets fired — from the late 1960s to mid-1980s.
The Red Brigades were the most notorious and were responsible for kidnappings and murders, including of former prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978.
The presence of hundreds of figures in France who are wanted by Italy for violent crimes has caused tensions between the two neighbours for decades.
In 2019, far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini said he would write to Macron “to ask him to stop allowing terrorists who have massacred Italians to be free to drink champagne.”
Relations between France and Italy were at a historic low at the time over a range of issues, but Macron sees new Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi as a close pro-EU ally.
Draghi expressed his “satisfaction” in a statement, adding that the “perpetrators of very serious acts of terrorism have left wounds that are still open. — AFP