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Court orders Priebke moved from prison to house arrest

ROME, March 18 (JTA) — Former Nazi SS Captain Erich Priebke will be released into house arrest pending a retrial for his role in a World War II massacre outside Rome.
An Italian military court made the ruling Tuesday during a closed-door session. It was not clear where Priebke would be housed, but judicial sources said he might be placed in a convent. Military prosecutor Antonino Intelisano said the court took into consideration evidence presented by the defense showing that the 83-year-old Priebke was suffering from a deterioration of mental health due to his age and his isolation in prison. Priebke was extradited November 1995 from Argentina, where he had lived openly for nearly half a century, to Italy. Since his extradition, he has been held in prison. Priebke was tried last year by a military court for his involvement in the March 1944 Nazi massacre of 335 civilians at the Ardeatine caves south of Rome. About 75 of the victims were Jews. The mass execution was ordered by the Nazis in reprisal for an Italian partisan bomb that killed 33 German soldiers. The Ardeatine massacre is considered Italy’s worst World War II atrocity. The military court Aug. 1 found Priebke guilty of involvement in the massacre, but ordered him freed because of extenuating circumstances, including a statute of limitations. This verdict caused an uproar and Priebke was rearrested. The verdict was quashed on appeal in October, and a new trial was ordered. The retrial is expected to begin next month.