Argentina refuses body of Nazi war criminal Priebke

Convicted former Nazi SS captain Erich Priebke leaves after attending a mass at a church in northern Rome October 17, 2010. Erich Priebke was allowed to serve his sentence under house arrest in Rome

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Argentina has said it will not accept the body of convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke, who died in Italy on Friday aged 100.

Priebke fled to Argentina after World War II and lived for nearly 40 years in the Andean resort of Bariloche before his identity was unveiled in 1994.

He was later extradited to Italy and sentenced to life imprisonment.

An Italian official had said that Priebke's body was to be buried next to that of his wife in Argentina.

But in a Twitter message, the office of Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said that wouldn't happen.

"Foreign Minister Hector Timerman has given the order not to accept the slightest move to allow the return of the body of Nazi criminal Erich Priebke to our country," the foreign ministry said.

"Argentines will not accept this kind of affront to human dignity."

Priebke, a former SS captain, was found guilty of ordering a massacre at Rome's Ardeatine caves in March 1944, a crime for which he never expressed remorse.

The bloodbath left 335 people dead, including 75 Jews.

Priebke was jailed for life in 1998 but because of his age and poor health, he was allowed to serve his sentence under house arrest in the capital.

Argentina's decision was welcomed by two Jewish organisations, the Israelite Argentine Mutual Aid Association (Amia) and the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations (Daia).

The fact that Priebke had "resided with impunity for decades in our country, enjoying a life that so many civilians had been deprived of" was "an affront to the principles of the Republic", the Daia said.

It urged people "not to forget and not forgive the Nazi genocide, or any type of genocide".

Argentina has the largest Jewish community in Latin America, consisting of some 300,000 members.

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