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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 April, 2004, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Italy opens Nazi war crimes trial
German troops in the Second World War
The Germans were hunting for partisans
The trial of three German former SS officers, charged with killing 560 civilians in northern Italy, has begun at a military court in the country.

But the case was adjourned until June so four more suspects could be tried at the same time on the same charges.

The defendants, all in their 80s, were not at the court for the opening day.

Survivors and relatives of the victims will give evidence at the trial in La Spezia. The massacre was among Italy's worst war crimes.

Prosecutors asked for the delay to allow all the proceedings to be dealt with at the same time.

The names of all the 560 victims were read aloud as Tuesday's proceedings got under way.

Hidden files

The massacre happened just days after British troops liberated Florence in 1944, when hundreds of SS troops surrounded the Tuscan village of Sant'Anna di Stazzema.

Witnesses say they rounded up the villagers, mostly women and children, and shot them before burning bodies and houses.

Italian authorities only began investigating the massacre 10 years ago when a journalist stumbled across a cupboard of witness statements.

Last year, the government set up a parliamentary commission to find out how these files remained hidden for six decades.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Frances Kennedy
"There is some sense that justice can be done"



SEE ALSO:
Italy and Germany mend fences
23 Aug 03  |  Europe
Timeline: Italy
29 Jan 04  |  Country profiles


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