This article appeared in the January 15, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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In delayed justice, reminder of threat Europe has seen before

Max Rossi/Reuters
Former Italian leftist guerrilla Cesare Battisti arrives at Ciampino Airport in Rome Jan. 14 after nearly four decades on the run from Italian police.

Cesare Battisti must have known this moment would come.

After nearly four decades on the run from Italian police, the former leftist militant was returned home on Monday from his Bolivian hide-out under armed guard.

He arrived back in Europe like a bad memory. Mr. Battisti was a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism, one of the violent extremist political groups that ran amok in Europe in the 1970s.

He was convicted in absentia for the murders of two policemen and involvement in two other killings, though he has denied responsibility.

Since escaping from an Italian prison in 1981 he lived mainly in France and Brazil, shielded from extradition by sympathetic leftist governments. He was caught by shifting political winds: Brazil’s new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, promised his Italian political ally Matteo Salvini that he would expel Battisti.

But the memories his capture stirs are worth reviving. As Europe faces the challenge of Islamist-inspired terrorism that threatens to undermine and divide its societies, it is important to recall that the continent has been through this kind of violence before. And its democratic institutions triumphed, by dint of police perseverance and judicial persistence.

Even if sometimes it has taken 38 years.

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This article appeared in the January 15, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/15 edition