Ruling on Former Nazi Officer Overturned | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 25.06.2004
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Ruling on Former Nazi Officer Overturned

A German federal court on Friday threw out the conviction of a former Nazi SS officer known as the "Butcher of Genoa," six decades after he ordered the massacre of 59 Italian prisoners. In its ruling, the high court cited the advanced age of 95-year-old defendant Friedrich Engel. He had been sentenced in 2002 to seven years in prison for murder in Germany's last major trial of a Nazi-era war criminal. Engel and the prosecution had appealed the decision by the lower court in the northern city of Hamburg. The federal judges said that although they upheld the Hamburg court's decision that Engel had ordered the executions at a prison in Marassi on the outskirts of Genoa on May 19, 1944, the charge of murder had not been sufficiently proven and would have required a retrial. It said that because it could be expected that Engel would soon face "significantly diminished ability to stand trial" because of his age, the case must be suspended. Engel had been free pending his appeal.