SS officer faces trial for massacre

ROME — A military court has ordered former SS Maj. Karl Hass to stand trial April 14 for his role in Italy's worst World War II atrocity.

It remains to be seen whether Hass, 84, will be tried with former Nazi SS Capt. Erich Priebke, who faces a retrial for his complicity in the March 24, 1944, massacre of 335 men and boys at the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome. About 75 of the victims were Jews.

Both trials will be held before military courts. Judicial sources said the two men probably would be tried together.

In August, a military court found the 83-year-old Priebke guilty of involvement in the massacre. But the court freed him, ruling that he could not be punished because the statute of limitations had run out.

That verdict triggered protests by victims' relatives, who barricaded the courthouse until Priebke was rearrested, pending a German extradition request.

Three months later, the verdict was annulled by an appeals court, which ruled that the judges had been biased in Priebke's favor.

Priebke has admitted to killing two of the victims, but says he was following orders.

Hass, who was a prosecution witness at the first Priebke trial, tried to avoid testifying by jumping off his hotel balcony. He broke his hip. He has been held under house arrest since in a private clinic near Rome.

The military court set the trial date on Friday of last week for Hass, who also was charged after he admitted taking part in the massacre during his testimony in the first Priebke trial.

Meanwhile, Italy's national pension office has revealed that Hass, who has lived in Italy for decades, receives $120 from Italy and $530 Germany each month in state pensions.