SS captain will go free, lawyer says

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ROME — The lawyer for accused killer Erich Priebke has told an Italian author that he had assurances from judges that the former SS captain would be acquitted.

Priebke, 82, is on trial before a military court here for his part in the Nazis' 1944 execution of 335 civilians, some 75 of them Jews, in the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome.

In an interview with the Rome daily Il Messaggero, Mary Pace, a writer who has been interviewing Priebke in jail for a book, said Priebke's lawyer had made clear from the start of the trial that Priebke would go free.

She quoted defense lawyer Velio De Rezze as saying, "The president [of the tribunal] is with me and [another] judge, too. I have a source in the tribunal that keeps me informed about everything."

The trial was suspended last week after the prosecution demanded dismissal of the three-judge court, charging that at least one of them intended to exonerate Priebke all along.

Chief Judge Agostino Quistelli has denied the charges of judicial impartiality.

The military court will meet next week behind closed doors to consider the motion.

Meanwhile, over this past weekend, posters signed by a skinhead group calling for Priebke's freedom were plastered on war memorials in Boves, a northern Italian town devastated by the Germans in World War II.