An Italian court has refused to order the extradition to Belgium of Cosimo Solazzo one of the men convicted of involvement in the murder of socialist politicians André Cools 30 years ago.
Solazzo, now aged 73, was found guilty in absentia in 2004 and sentenced to 20 years for his role in the assassination, only the second political assassination in Belgian history. However he had fled to Italy before the trial in Liege.
Once his whereabouts were determined, the procedure began to have him extradited. In fact the court in Lecce arrived at its decision not to extradite in December 2020, but the prosecutor’s office in Liege has only now been informed.
Cools had been mayor of Flémalle, his own personal political fiefdom, and had held a number of posts in government, including budget minister, deputy prime minister, president of the socialist party and president of the Walloon parliament.
Solazzo was one of four men found guilty and sentenced to 20 years – Richard Taxquet, private secretary to minister Alain Van der Biest; Pino Di Mauro, Van der Biest’s driver; Solazzo himself and Domenico Castellino – all of whom were sentenced to 20 years for various crimes including providing accommodation for the shooters and transporting them to and from Italy.
Van der Biest had already committed suicide before the 2004 trial. The two gunmen, recruited from Mafia sources in Tunisia, were given 25 years, which they served in Tunis.
“The Italian Court of Appeal mainly considers that there are no sufficient guarantees that Mr. Solazzo, if he were extradited, could receive adequate and continuous diagnostic, therapeutic and nutritional treatments, required by the serious and chronic pathologies from which he suffers and which, if they are not treated, could have exceptionally serious consequences for his health,” said Advocate-General Jean-Baptiste Andries for the Liège prosecutor’s office.
The decision of the Italian court effectively puts paid to a fourth Cools trial, which would have closed the matter in Belgium, 30 years after the murder in a car park. But the authorities will only take that decision officially when the statute of limitations on the crime runs out, with or without Solazzo’s presence.