By Jeremy Hainsworth
VANCOUVER (CP) - A convicted war criminal living in Vancouver is in jail this weekend after the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld an extradition order made after a request from Italy, which has convicted the man in absentia.
Michael Seifert was sentenced to life after being found guilty in 2000 of nine counts of murder, committed during his term as an SS guard at the Bolzano prison transit camp in northern Italy.
The Italian government alleged the 83-year-old Seifert beat, tortured, starved and murdered inmates.
The Appeal Court says the crimes are of the worst order. The judges said it is not unjust for Seifert to face the consequences of nine murders accompanied by extreme cruelty.
Seifert's lawyer, Doug Christie, however, says he's appalled at the decision.
He says he will now seek leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
"The government of Canada has promised in the past to try any war crimes in Canada. That's what they did with Imre Finta in 1989. They've never done its since. They've broken their word."
In 1990, Canada's first war crimes trial ended in Toronto when Finta, a retired Toronto restaurateur, was acquitted on all charges in the 1944 deportation of more than 8,600 Jews.
Seifert, who has lived in Canada since 1951, had been sentenced by a German military court for rape and, as a soldier serving in the German army, was assigned to guard isolation cells at the Italian camp.
"Mr. Seifert was, therefore, both a prisoner within the camp and a camp guard," the court said.
While admitting he was a guard at the camp, Seifert has denied being involved in atrocities.
A committal hearing for the extradition request ended with B.C. Supreme Court Justice Selwyn Romilly ordering that Seifert be surrendered to Italian officials on seven of the nine counts.
Irwin Cottler, then Liberal minister of justice, upheld the decision and ordered the surrender of the so-called 'Beast of Bolzano' to Italy.
In doing so, Seifert's lawyers challenged Cottler as biased as he has been a supporter of Jewish organizations.
That allegation was rejected by the Appeal Court in its Friday decision.
In writing the decision, Justice Ian Donald noted there were grounds for discretion as Seifert had led a peaceful life in Canada, worked hard and raised a family.
However, he said, "having reviewed the evidence, I am satisfied that the evidence is sufficient for committal."
Christie said Seifert's wife and son are devastated by the decision. He says they have lived in a state of terror throughout the proceedings of the past few years.
At the Italian trial, people testified that Seifert starved a 15-year-old prisoner to death, gouged out a person's eyes, beat prisoners before shooting them and tortured a woman before killing her and her daughter.
Copyright © 2007 Canadian Press