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Extradition sought in 29-year-old political murder case

Cosimo Solazzo, right, photographed in 2004 shortly before absconding. © Belga

The Liege prosecutor-general has sent a request to Italy for the extradition of a man sentenced for the murder of a leading Belgian politician in 1991.

Cosimo Solazzo, now aged 72, was sentenced in 2004 to 20 years in prison for his part in the murder in Liege in 1991 of André Cools, a leading figure in the French-speaking socialist party PS.

Cools was shot twice as he left the apartment of his partner, and died at the scene. The woman he was with was injured. The gunmen, two hired guns from Tunisia, had been delivered with the help of the Italian mafia. They were tracked down and extradited, and sentenced to 20 years, which they served in a Tunisian prison.

The threads of the plot against Cools led back to the office of Alain Van der Biest, a socialist minister, and his private secretary Richard Taxquet and chauffeur Pino di Mauro. They had organised the hit on Cools, calling on Solazzo and another foot-soldier, Domenico Castellino, to take care of details such as providing the firearms and transporting the assassins from the airport and back to Tunis, as well as arranging accommodation for them before the assassination.

The exact reason for the killing of Cools has never come to light, although numerous theories have circulated. Van der Biest, an alcoholic who may or may not have known about the plot, committed suicide in 2002. He was never indicted in connection with the death of Cools.

Solazzo was sentenced in his absence to 20 years. Belgium issued a European Arrest Warrant to have him delivered here. But when Solazzo was arrested in April, in Veglie near Lecce in the heel of the Italian boot, the extradition request was contested. Solazzo was placed under house arrest with an electronic ankle bracelet.

The Italian authorities asked us for information about the prison conditions in Belgium regarding the health of Mr Solazzo,” a spokesperson for the Liege prosecutor-general told L’Avenir. “We have provided all the requested information and are now awaiting an answer from the Italian court to our request for extradition.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times