Newsletter : 6fax0802.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Aug. 2, 1996 V4, #141
All the News the Big Guys Missed
Italy Frees Nazi SS Capt. Erich Priebke
By Ruth Gruber (VOA-Rome)
In a verdict adding more controversy to an already dramatic trail,
a military court in Rome Thursday absolved former Nazi SS Capt.
Erich Priebke of war crime charges stemming from the World War 2
massacre of 335 Italian civilians. Citing extenuating
circumstances, it ordered him released from prison.
Presiding Judge Agostino Quistelli said in effect that the 83-year-
old Priebke, who had admitted taking part in the massacre, was
judged guilty of participating in it. But it was ruled that he
could no longer be punished for the war crimes charges of acting
with cruelty and premeditation as these fell under a statute of
Quistelli also mentioned extenuating circumstances arguing for
Priebke's release, including his age and his good behavior while in
jail. Friends and relatives of the victims who listened to the
verdict being read erupted into outraged shouts of assassin,
fascist, and shame, shame.
The Italian government also issued a statement expressing
bitterness and Rome's mayor ordered that the lights on Rome's
monuments be dimmed. The March 1944 massacre at the Ardeatine Cave
south of Rome is regarded as the worst Nazi atrocity to have taken
place in Italy during World War 2. It was ordered by the Nazis in
reprisal for a partisan bomb that killed 33 German soldiers. The
verdict added further controversy to a three month trial that will
surely be one of the last times a former Nazi will appear in court
on war crimes charges.
Both the prosecution and lawyers for relatives and friends of the
victims had unsuccessfully tried to get the judges dismissed,
claiming they were biased in favor of Priebke. Both requests were
rejected by an appeals court. It was not immediately clear what
Priebke would do or where he would go now. Prosecution lawyers
said they were considering appealing the verdict. And Germany has
issued an arrest warrant for Priebke.
Priebke had lived with impunity for nearly 50 years in Argentina
after escaping from a POW camp in Italy after the war. He was
discovered in a resort town in the Andes, where he had run a hotel
and a delicatessen, by an American news crew in May 1994. After an
18 month legal battle, Priebke was extradited to Italy last
November where he was held in a military prison. The trial against
him began May 8, the 51st anniversary of the end of World War 2 in
During the trail Priebke's lawyer argued that he should be
acquitted as he was simply following orders when he shot two of
the Ardeatine Cave victims and crossed off names of the victims
from a list. The murdered men and boys, who included about 75
Jews, were led in groups of five into the cave with their hands
tied behind there backs. There they were shot in the back of the
head. The caves were later blown up.
Priebke said the order for the massacre had come from Hitler
directly and that any officer who had refused to take part would
have risked being killed himself.
Priebke May be Kept From Argentina
By Dawn Makinson (VOA-Buenos Aires)
Argentina's Weisenthal Center wants to keep a former SS officer,
Erich Priebke, out of the country although he has been freed by an
Italian judicial panel. The SS stands for the German word Schutz
Staffel, a Nazi military elite. The Weisenthal Center has a global
reputation for tracking down World War 2 figures who participated
in the Holocaust and it accuses the officer of shooting two people.
Argentina's Weisenthal Center has asked the Argentine government to
revoke the citizenship of Priebke. A representative of the center,
Sergio Widder, says he suspected a possible not guilty verdict by
the Italian judicial panel weeks ago, and launched a legal plan.
Argentine law allows the government to revoke citizenship obtained
fraudulently, but the government has been reluctant to clamp down
on the ex-Nazis who live here. The government has been given a
list of 15 ex-Nazis who live in the country, three time in the last
five years. It has never responded to requests to investigate
those on the list.
Observers say now may be a good time to push for the revocation
of Preibke's citizenship. Argentina's new justice minister, who
is Jewish, replaced a justice minister who left because his former
Nazi background was disclosed.
Argentina became known as a safe haven for Nazis after dozens of
them immigrated here following the Second World War. Priebke was
living openly under his real name in the south of the country, but
had obtained his citizenship using another name.
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