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Canada extradites convicted Nazi to Italy

Man was known as 'Beast of Bolzano'
February 16, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
An 83-year-old former SS prison guard who was sentenced to life in prison in Italy for Nazi war crimes was jailed near Naples Saturday, hours after he was extradited from Canada. Michael Seifert arrived shortly before dawn at an airport near Rome aboard a military jet from Toronto. He was taken to a prison near Naples, where he was having a routine medical exam, said Bartolomeo Costantini, the military prosecutor who pursued the case.

"His legs were a little wobbly after he got off the flight" likely due to the stress and the long journey, Costantini said.

Seifert has a pacemaker but otherwise is apparently healthy, he said. If doctors deem it necessary, Seifert could be incarcerated in a hospital ward in the prison.

If someone is willing to host him, the former SS officer eventually could be allowed to serve his sentence on house arrest because of his age.

Seifert, known as the "Beast of Bolzano," was convicted in absentia in 2000 by a military tribunal in Verona on nine counts of murder committed while he was an SS guard at a prison transit camp in Bolzano, northern Italy.

At his trial, people testified that Seifert starved a 15-year-old prisoner to death, gouged out a person's eyes and tortured a woman before killing her and her daughter.

Seifert, a Canadian citizen of Ukrainian origin, has acknowledged being a guard at the SS-run camp but denies being involved in atrocities.

In 1944 and 1945, the Bolzano camp served as a transit point for Jews, Italian resistance fighters, Italians drafted for factory work and German army deserters who were being shipped north.

Seifert, who has lived in Canada since 1951, had unsuccessfully fought efforts by the Canadian government to strip him of his citizenship based on allegations that he hid his past when he entered the country.

Canada bars former members of the SS and related units such as the Nazi SD because of their involvement in concentration camps and with other war crimes.

Last month Seifert lost a bid to have the Supreme Court of Canada consider his appeal seeking to stop his extradition to Italy, clearing the way for his deportation.

His lawyer, Doug Christie, said Seifert called his wife Thursday night to say he was being escorted from a detention center in Vancouver.

Avi Benlolo, president of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies in Canada, said Seifert needs to face justice in Italy.

"It's critical that this happens," Benlolo said. "It sets an example for other war criminals, not only Nazi war criminals, but war criminals related to Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur or any other genocide, that there's no time limit to justice."

 

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