ROME (Feb. 10)
The war crimes retrial of former SS Capt. Erich Priebke will be held before a military, not a civilian, court. Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, made the ruling on court jurisdiction Monday, ending months of judicial limbo on the matter and paving the way for the trial to go ahead.
The trial date is yet to be set.
Last August, a Rome military court found Priebke, 83, guilty of participation in the March 24, 1944 Nazi massacre of 335 Roman men and boys, including 75 Jews, in the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome.
But the court freed him, ruling that he could not be punished because the statute of limitations had run out and because of other extenuating circumstances.
That verdict triggered protests by family members of the victims, who barricaded the courthouse for eight hours until Priebke was re-arrested pending an extradition request from Germany.
Three months later, the verdict was annulled by an appeals court, which ruled that the judges had been openly biased in Priebke’s favor.
A new trial was ordered, but confusion over whether military or civil authorities had jurisdiction over a retrial stalled the process.
Priebke’s defense had sought another military trial. The former Nazi has been held in a military prison in Rome since August.
Another ex-Nazi, 84-year-old former SS Maj. Karl Hass, will be tried along with Priebke.
Hass, who was a prosecution witness in the first trial, was also charged after he admitted taking part in the massacre.