Argentinian court extradites SS man

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Associated Press

Buenos Aires - The Supreme Court ruled yesterday to extradite a former SS captain to Italy, ending a 17-month saga in which Argentina struggled to shrug off an image of being a safe haven for Nazis.

The ruling, by a split vote of 6-3, meant Erich Priebke, 82, will face charges in Italy of participating in the 1944 massacre of 335 civilians, including 71 Jews, in Nazi-occupied Rome.

Priebke's defence lawyer, Pedro Bianchi, accused the Supreme Court of "ceding to political pressure from Italy and Argentina." He added that there was no way of appealing against the final ruling.

Argentina was heavily criticised by Jewish groups after an appeals court in August overturned a lower court extradition ruling. Priebke, who has lived openly under his own name in southern Argentina since escaping from a British prison camp after the war, was immediately freed from 15 months of house arrest. His freedom lasted just 29 hours as he was arrested again the following day at the request of the German government, which said it would demand his extradition if Italy was unsuccessful.

The massacre, in the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome, was ordered by Hitler to avenge the killing of 32 German soldiers in an ambush. Ten Italian civilians were executed for every German soldier killed.

Earlier this year, Priebke said his task was to "erase" the names of victims off a list, "as they were led one-by-one with their hands tied into the caves."

He was arrested in June 1994 in the Andean mountain resort of Bariloche, 1,100 miles (1,770 kms) southwest of Buenos Aires after admitting to a role in the massacre during an interview with a US news network. Before then he had been a high-profile member of Bariloche's large German community and the president of a German-Argentine cultural association.