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Rome court denies request, keeps Erich Priebke in detention

ROME, Aug. 5 (JTA) — An Italian military tribunal has rejected a request to release former SS Capt. Erich Priebke from detention. Monday’s ruling came after Priebke’s defense team requested an immediate release for the former Nazi, who is 83 and in frail health. Priebke was sentenced in July to five years in jail for his role in the World War II massacre of 335 Italian men and boys at the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome. About 75 of the victims were Jews. Priebke will be eligible to be freed within a year for time served during his trial and pre-trial detention. He is serving his sentence under house arrest at a monastery near Rome. Italian television reported Monday that the monks at the monastery no longer want to keep him and that lawyers were looking for a new place where Priebke could be held under house arrest. The court also delivered a guilty verdict last month against Priebke’s codefendent, former SS Maj. Karl Hass. The court sentenced both defendants to jail, but, citing extenuating circumstances, drastically reduced their jail terms. The court sentenced Priebke to 15 years but reduced the term to five years. It sentenced Hass to 10 years and eight months, but reduced the sentence to eight months. Because Hass had been under house arrest since last November, he will not serve any time in jail. The prosecution had demanded a life sentence for Priebke and 24 years for Hass. Both defendants admitted killing two people each during the massacre, which is considered the worst Nazi atrocity to have taken place in Italy during World War II. Both men claimed in their defense that they were following orders from the Nazi high command and would have been killed had they refused.

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