January 19, 2008 / 4:50 PM / 10 years ago

Ex-Nazi guard loses Canadian extradition appeal

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada's highest court refused on Thursday to hear the appeal of a former Nazi guard fighting extradition to Italy, where he was convicted of war crimes in World War Two.

But Michael Seifert's attorney said he expected to make a final appeal to Canada's federal justice minister to review the case and allow the Ukrainian-born man to remain in the country.

Seifert, 83, who has lived in Canada since 1951, has acknowledged being a guard at a prison in Bolzano, Italy, that held Jews and others headed to German concentration camps, but denied he murdered anyone.

An Italian military court convicted him in absentia in 2000 of torturing and killing nine people, and sentenced him to life in prison. Press reports said Seifert and another guard were called "The Beasts of Bolzano."

Seifert appealed, saying Canadian courts that approved turning him over to Italian authorities had ignored legal weaknesses in the Italian trial. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to review the lower court's rulings.

Defense attorney Doug Christie expressed disappointment.

Extraditing Seifert would ignore the findings a Canadian judge in November in a related citizenship case that officials had not fully proved he was guilty of war crimes, Christie said.

"Nothing like this has ever happened before," he added.

Despite questioning the war crimes accusation, the judge in November still stripped Seifert of his Canadian citizenship on the grounds that he lied about his Nazi past to gain entrance to Canada.

Seifert was born in 1924 in a town in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, and began work as a guard for the Nazi SD after the German occupation. He was transferred to Italy in 1944 and stayed there until the war ended.

He eventually moved to Vancouver where he was employed as a mill worker and raised a family. He was arrested by Canada in 2002 at Italy's request.

Canada barred former members of the Nazi SS and related units such as the Nazi SD from immigrating after the war because of their involvement in concentration camps and other war crimes.

The Canadian Jewish Congress praised the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the appeal, and urged the government to quickly remove Seifert to Italy.

Christie said he worried Seifert is in poor health. "Italy will not have long to display their trophy," he said.

Reporting by Allan Dowd, Editing by Renato Andrade

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