Nazi war criminal extradited to Italy to face life sentence
Canwest News Service
Friday, February 15, 2008
Michael Seifert, 83, leaves court after attending his extradition hearing in 2003. Seifert, convicted in absentia in 2000 in Italy for war crimes ranging from murder to torture and rape when he was an SS prison guard, has been ordered extradited to Italy.
A Canadian man who was convicted of brutally torturing and killing nine people at a Nazi prison camp more than 60 years ago has been extradited to Italy.
Michael Seifert, 83, boarded a commercial plane bound for Italy at Pearson International Airport in Toronto at 3 p.m. ET, confirmed Alain Cherette, a spokesman for Canada's Department of Justice.
"Mr. Seifert was flown to Toronto and from there, he was handed over to Italian authorities,"he said Friday.
Seifert is set to face a life sentence in Italy where, seven years ago in an Italian military court, he was convicted in absentia of war crimes committed during his time as an SS guard in the Second World War.
The crimes took place in a Nazi prison camp in Bolzano, Italy, from 1944 to 1945.
Nicknamed the "Beast of Bolzano," Seifert was found guilty of being involved with nine killings and abuses at the police transit camp that imprisoned Jews, Italian resistance fighters and others, some of whom ended up being taken to Nazi concentration camps.
While working as a guard, Seifert was responsible for supervising prisoner work and performing prisoner rollcalls. He also took prisoners to trains destined for Nazi death camps. He got the job after he left Ukraine at the start of the war.
In his defence, Seifert has said he was only at the camp because he was serving a sentence there for a sexual assault involving another Ukrainian guard. He's always denied involvement in the atrocities and killings.
Nonetheless, Italy issued an extradition order for the former Ukrainian national in May 2002.
Seifert had been living in British Columbia since arriving in Canada in 1951.
He had been fighting his extradition through B.C. Supreme Court for the past six years.
Last year, the court ruled that since Seifert lied about his birthplace and his former occupation when he was applying for Canadian citizenship, it can be revoked.
Seifert argued he only lied to Canadian immigration authorities because he would be killed if his former native Ukraine found out he was emigrating.
Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada denied his last appeal.
"He was at the end of his options," Cherette said. "That cleared the way for his extradition. It's the end of due process. He's used every legal tool that was at his disposal and that was it."
Seifert had been held in custody in a Vancouver-area prison until he was removed Thursday by RCMPofficers who escorted him to Toronto, Cherette said.
Seifert was handed over to two Italian officers fromInterpol at the Toronto airport Friday prior to boarding his afternoon flight.
Cherette adds that it is now up to Italian authorities to decide what they are going to do with him.
Italian news agency Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reported Friday that Seifert will be transferred to a military hospital in Verona, where his war crimes took place.
Bernie Farber, head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said Seifert's extradition sends a clear message the Canadian government is taking a hard stance on Nazi-era defendants.
"This is excellent news. It's been a long time coming," he said "Sadly, other governments had turned a blind eye to the murderers around us. Hopefully this signals a change in attitude in Canada."
Farber said Holocaust survivors living in Canada can finally feel some kind of justice.
"It brings great solace and great comfort to Holocaust survivors who came here and discovered sadly that they were sharing their new-found land with their victimizers. It's been a terrible time for them,"Farber said. "Justice is finally being done."