Italy, Jews welcome extradition of SS officer By Paul Holmes ROME, May 5 (Reuter) - Italy and Jewish groups on Friday welcomed a ruling by an Argentine judge in favour of the extradition of a former German Nazi SS officer to stand trial in Rome on charges of crimes against humanity. Erich Priebke, 81, is wanted for Italy's worst civilian atrocity of World War Two -- the massacre at the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome in March 1944 of 335 men and boys in reprisal for the killing of 33 German soldiers by partisans. Seventy-five of the victims were Jews. The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, in a statement sent to Reuters in Rome, said it would urge Argentine authorities to ensure Priebke's swift extradition. ``The extradition of Erich Priebke, coming on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War Two, is an important lesson that...time can be no refuge for crimes against humanity,'' said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the centre's founder. The ruling ``should stand as a warning for those still in hiding that their appointment with justice will also come.'' Italy sought Priebke's extradition for trial by a military court last June after a team from American ABC television traced him to the Andean ski resort of Bariloche, where he had lived under his own name since moving to Argentina in 1948. Priebke's lawyer Pedro Bianchi said after federal judge Leonidas Mouldes ruled in favour of extradition on Thursday that he would appeal. Under Argentine law, he has five days to do so. The Italian Justice Ministry, in a statement, expressed deep satisfaction at Mouldes's action. It said it would follow the rest of the extradition process in Argentina closely ``in order to ensure that someone accused of crimes against humanity is brought to justice in our country.'' Priebke, who is under house arrest, was the officer responsible for drawing up the list of those to be shot at the Ardeatine Caves. He has admitted his role in a book and to ABC television but said he was following orders from his superior, the late SS Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler, who was Gestapo chief of Rome. The victims, shot in the back of the head in groups of five kneeling on the bodies of those killed before them, had been rounded up by the SS and Italian fascist police at their homes or selected from Rome's Regina Coeli prison. Giulia Spizzichino, a Rome Jew, told Reuters on Friday how she had watched from behind a curtain as seven of her male relatives killed at the Ardeatine Caves were rounded up and taken away on a truck two nights before the massacre. Spizzichino, who was 16 at the time, said the seven included her grandfather, 74, three uncles and three cousins, the youngest 17. She and other relatives of victims visited Argentina last October to press for Priebke's extradition. ``People say 50 years is a long time but for those who suffered, the pain is still as sharp and alive as if it happened yesterday,'' she said. The protracted extradition proceedings have been an embarrassment for Argentina, which wants to change its image as a haven for Nazis on the run since the 1940s. Hitler's confidant, Martin Bormann, Auschwitz concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichman -- later sentenced to death and executed in Israel -- were three of the most infamous fugitives who took refuge in Argentina after the war. Argentina to extradite former SS officer to Italy (Adds details, background) BUENOS AIRES, May 4 (Reuter) - An Argentine judge on Thursday ruled in favour of an Italian request for the extradition of former German SS officer Erich Priebke. Priebke, 81, is wanted for Italy's worst World War Two massacre at the Ardeatine caves, where 335 men and boys, including 75 Jews, were executed in reprisal for the killing of 33 members of a German army unit by partisans. Local media reported that federal judge Leonidas Mouldes made the ruling in the southern skiing resort of Bariloche, where Priebke has lived since 1948 and has been under house arrest for the past 12 months. His lawyer, Pedro Bianchi, said he will appeal the decision. Under Argentine law, he has five days to do so. Mouldes said he based his ruling on a 1886 extradition treaty. He rejected the defence argument that Priebke had acted under orders from his superiors. ``The defence arguments about taking into account the 'due obedience' and other justifications are a matter for the consideration of the judges handling the case in Italy,'' the magistrate said. Priebke was the officer responsible for drawing up the list of those to be shot and has admitted his role in a book and to a U.S. television channel early last year, prompting Italy to seek his extradition. The ruling came as the world was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War Two. The protracted extradition proceedings have been an embarrassment for Argentina, which wants to change its image as a haven for Nazis on the run since the 1940s. Hitler's confidant, Martin Bormann, Auschwitz concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichman -- later sentenced to death and executed in Israel -- were three of the most infamous fugitives who took refuge in Argentina after the war.
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