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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 January 2007, 21:25 GMT
Italy convicts Nazis of massacre
German troops in the Second World War
The killings took place as the Nazis were hunting for partisans
Italy has sentenced 10 former members of the Nazi SS to life imprisonment for their role in the worst World War II massacre on Italian soil, reports say.

The defendants, all in their 80s and believed to live in Germany, were tried in absentia by a military tribunal in the port of La Spezia.

Several hundred people were killed in 1944 around the town of Marzabotto, near Bologna, by retreating Nazis.

Most of those who died were women, children and the elderly.

"This judgment has been reached in the name of the Italian people and in accordance with the law after a very difficult trial," the head of the military court, Vincenzo Santoro, was quoted as saying.

Reprisal

Italian media said the 10 were also ordered to pay about 100m euros ($129m) in damages to the few survivors and relatives of the victims.

Seven other defendants are reported to have been acquitted.

Marzabotto was the worst massacre of civilians committed in Italy during World War ll.

Between 29 September and 5 October, 1944, retreating Nazi troops carrying out reprisals for the local support given to resistance fighters killed civilians around Marzabotto, a mountainous area south of Bologna.

The number of those killed in Marzabotto is put at more than 700, and some records say as many as 1,800 were killed by the SS forces as they swept the area in pursuit of partisans.

In 2002, then-German President Johannes Rau went to Marzabotto and expressed his country's "profound sorrow" and "shame" for the massacre.

In 2005, an Italian court convicted 10 former SS officers in absentia for a massacre in the Tuscan village of Sant'Anna di Stazzema.

Some 560 civilians were killed in the August 1944 massacre. The trials and convictions of the former Nazis, most of them living in Germany, remain largely symbolic, correspondents say.

Those convicted are unlikely to go to prison, given their age and the length of time needed for extradition.


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