Jewish Groups Praise Ruling to Extradite Nazi in Argentina

Jewish groups have applauded the Argentine Supreme Court’s ruling to extradite former SS Capt. Erich Priebke to Italy.

The 6-3 ruling, which came on Nov. 2, ends 18 months of legal action.

The ruling also is being seen as a successful effort by Argentina to counter its image as a safe haven for Nazi criminals.

Priebke, 82, will now answer to charges in Italy on taking part in the 1944 slaughter of 335 civilians, including 75 Jews, at the Ardeatine Caves near Rome.

Hitler had ordered the massacre to avenge the killing of 32 German Soldiers in an ambush.

Priebke is also suspected of participating in the torture of political prisoners as well as the deportation of thousands of Jews to Auschwitz.

The accused war criminal may be sent to Rome within weeks.

Until last week’s ruling, Priebke had successfully fought German and Italian attempts to extradite him.

Priebke came to Argentina after he escaped a British prison camp after the war.

Last year, after nearly 50 years of quite in Bariloche, a picturesque ski resort in southern Argentina with a sizable German colony, Priebke was arrested after being tracked down by ABC Television, which located him with the help of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Since May 9, Priebke has been under house arrest.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center commended the extradition order, saying that Priebke’s case “could serve as a graphic history lesson to younger Europeans attracted to Nazi and fascist movements.”

Sergio Widder, the center’s representative in Argentina, said in an interview that the push to extradite Priebke “paid off.”

The center reportedly demanded last Friday that Priebke be jailed pending his extradition.

“We’re pleased Argentina’s highest court has finally made the right decision,” said David Strassler, Anti-Defamation League national chairman, and Abraham Foxman, ADL national director.

“This ruling sends the message that there is not safe haven for Nazi killers,” they also said.

Tommy Baer, international president of B’nai B’rith, said: “When Priebke stands as a defendant in an Italian court room, we will breathe a sigh of relief that the efforts to allow Priebke to escape justice for his crimes have failed.”

Pedro Bianchi, Priebke’s lawyer, said in an interview that “we are already packing our bags to continue our work in Italy.”

If convicted, Priebke faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

In August, an Argentine appellate court ruling overturned the original extradition order, arguing that the statute of limitations for murder under Argentine law expired years ago.

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