Carla Bruni uses influence to halt extradition of Red Brigades terrorist

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In a sign of her influence over her husband's decision-making, the Italian-born First Lady - along with her sister - convinced the French president to drop a court order to deport exiled Red Brigades terrorist Marina Petrella to Rome.

Her personal intervention and the presidential u-turn sparked anger in Italy, which has been seeking Mrs Petrella's extradition from France since she fled after being freed on bail in 1986.

A group representing victims of the Red Brigades said it would travel to Paris this weekend and protest against the decision in front of the Elysée palace.

Mrs Petrella was found guilty in absentia by an Italian court in 1992 of murder, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping and armed robbery.

A French court approved her extradition in December and an order to send her back to Italy had been signed by the prime minister. But after "pugnacious" lobbying by Mr Sarkozy's wife on behalf of her older sister, actress Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, the president changed his mind - citing humanitarian grounds.

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