ROME — Italian leftists and the government gave a hero's welcome Wednesday to an Italian woman imprisoned for nearly 17 years in the United States for a string of armored car holdups and links to a black militant group.
Supporters tossed roses before the motorcade that brought 51-year-old Silvia Baraldini to an Italian prison Wednesday to complete her sentence.
Italy's leftist government sent a private jet to pick up Baraldini after her release earlier in the day from a federal prison in Danbury, Conn. Justice Minister Oliviero Diliberto, a member of the Refounded Communist Party, escorted Baraldini's mother to Rome's Ciampino airport to greet her.
Baraldini was convicted of a series of robberies and attempted robberies in the United States--including a 1981 holdup of a Brink's truck in New York, in which a guard and two policemen were killed. She was sentenced to 43 years in prison, and the terms of her transfer commit Italy to holding Baraldini for at least nine more years.
She is the darling of much of the Italian political left because of her anti-establishment activities and links to black militants who were fighting what they saw as an unjust U.S. government.
"Freedom!" her backers, wearing T-shirts with her picture and waving banners, shouted as she arrived at Rome's Rebibbia prison.
The conservative opposition was not as welcoming.
"Couldn't she have taken a regular commercial flight?" snapped Giuseppe Brienza, a member of the opposition Christian Democrats.
The office of Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said there was nothing unusual about the security surrounding Baraldini's return.
"There was no red carpet treatment for Silvia Baraldini," D'Alema's office said in a statement. It said Baraldini was flown home on a military plane at U.S. insistence.
Italy had sought Baraldini's release from U.S. prison since 1989, and many Italians saw her sentence as overly harsh.
Until this year, the United States had refused each request, saying Italy had a history of leniency toward terrorists.
Then-federal prosecutor Rudolph W. Giuliani, now the mayor of New York, won the long sentence against Baraldini in 1983 on subversive association and other charges. She also was convicted of being part of a Marxist black nationalist group that was accused of crimes dating to 1976.