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Murder trial of ex-Nazi officer Siert Bruins closed without a verdict

A German court has shelved the case against a former Nazi officer, citing too many gaps in evidence. Meanwhile, German authorities have charged another former SS member over allegations of involvement in a massacre.

In the western city of Hagen on Wednesday, Judge Heike Hartmann-Garschagen closed the murder trial of Dutch-born ex-Nazi officer Siert Bruins, 92, saying too much evidence was missing and it was no longer possible to call witnesses to the stand.

Bruins, now a German citizen, went on trial in September on charges that he executed resistance fighter Aldert Klaas Dijkema in the northern Dutch town of Delfzijl in 1944.

Bruins' lawyer argued his client didn't know of plans to kill Dijkema, and that another SS man, who is now deceased, pulled the trigger.

Bruins was originally charged for manslaughter but the case was discontinued in 1978 due to the statue of limitations.

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, Bruins was convicted in absentia by a court in the Netherlands of participating in three shootings, including that of Dijkema. He was sentenced to death in 1949, but it was later commuted to life imprisonment. However, he avoided serving his sentence as he had fled to Germany and gained German citizenship.

In the 1980s, Bruins did, however, serve a seven-year jail term in Germany after a court convicted him of being an accessory in the murder of two Jewish brothers in the Netherlands in April 1945.

One case closes, another opens

German authorities on Wednesday charged 88-year-old former SS member Werner C. with 25 counts of murder over allegations that he took part in the 1944 slaughter in Oradour-sur-Glane in southwestern France. The suspect was also charged with hundreds of counts of accessory to murder during the killings, which was the largest civilian massacre in Nazi-occupied France.

If the Cologne court decides to move ahead with a trial, it is possible it would be held in a juvenile court since the suspect was only 19 at the time.

Since the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-1946, some 13,000 German or Nazi soldiers have been found guilty of war crimes.

hc/kms (dpa, epd)

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