An Italian communist militant has for the first time admitted responsibility for four murders he carried out in the 1970s. Cesare Battisti went on the run for nearly 40 years after the killings, until he was arrested in Bolivia in January and extradited back to Italy.
He is now serving a life sentence in a high-security prison in Sardinia.
The 64-year-year old had always denied responsibility for the murders and other crimes, carried out as part of a plot to foment a Left-wing revolution in Italy.
Alberto Nobili, a prosecutor from Milan, said Battisti confessed to the murders during questioning in jail at the weekend.
“When I killed, for me it was just a war,” he reportedly said. “I realise the harm I have done and I apologise to the families [of the victims].”
Mr Nobili said it had "felt like I was watching the liberation of someone who was initially embarrassed, troubled".
The confessions came "little by little… not as a flood", said the prosecutor.
Battisti also confessed to being responsible for three assaults and several robberies which were carried out to finance the terrorist group Armed Proletarians for Communism. Battisti was convicted of belonging to the extreme Left-wing group in 1979.
Two years later, however, he escaped from prison in Italy and went on the run.
He fled to France, where he received protection under President Francois Mitterand, and then lived in Mexico and Brazil, where he was granted political asylum by then-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
In the meantime he was sentenced in absentia to a life sentence in Italy for having killed a policeman and a prison guard.
He was also convicted of taking part in the murder of a butcher who was a far-Right militant and for helping to plan the murder of a jeweler in 1978 and 1979.
Battisti’s apologies were rejected by some of the victims’ relatives.
"I think his lawyer is advising him so he can have his sentence reduced," Maurizio Campagna, the brother of the murdered policeman, told Sky TG24 television.
After nearly four decades on the run, Battisti was arrested in January while strolling alone in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. He did not put up a struggle.
He was a key figure in Italy’s so-called “Years of Lead” when extreme Right-wing and Left-wing groups carried out deadly attacks across the country in pursuit of their political agendas.