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Top judges to decide on court for retrial of ex-Nazi Priebke

ROME, Dec. 26 (JTA) — Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, has been asked whether a civilian or military court should handle the second trial of former Nazi SS Capt. Erich Priebke for his role in Italy’s worst World War II atrocity. A military court ruled in August that Priebke, 83, was guilty of participating in the March 1944 massacre of 335 civilians at the Ardeatine Caves, south of Rome. But he was acquitted of other charges, and the court freed him because of a 30-year statute of limitations. Priebke was immediately rearrested and jailed by civilian authorities. The original verdict was later nullified. A new trial was ordered because of alleged bias by a military court judge. Earlier this month, a civilian prosecutor withdrew from the case, saying that he had no jurisdiction, leaving it uncertain whether Priebke’s new trial would be before a civilian or military court. On Tuesday, Rome preliminary investigating Judge Ciro Monsurro asked the Court of Cassation to decide. Meanwhile, about 100 supporters of Priebke celebrated Mass Monday evening in his honor in a Rome church. The Mass was celebrated “to turn a thought of solidarity to Erich Priebke, a victim of persecution” and in memory of all those persecuted “by the winners of the war.”