German court declares former SS soldier fit for trial
The court ruled that going on trial would not pose a serious danger to his health, reversing an earlier decision made last year.Berlin -- An 88-year-old former Nazi SS soldier of Dutch origin is well enough to stand trial for the murder of three Dutch resistance fighters, a German court ruled on Tuesday, overturning an earlier decision.
Prosecutors charged Heinrich Boere in April 2008 over the 1944 killings but a court in Aachen ruled in January this year that poor health meant he was too frail to stand trial.
A higher court in Cologne, after commissioning additional health reports including one from the nursing home where Boere lives, ruled on Tuesday that going on trial would not pose a serious danger to his health.
"Despite a serious heart complaint following a heart attack and other health problems, the accused is seen as being fit for trial and that his well-being can be properly taken care of inside and outside the court," a statement said.
The court said it was satisfied that regular breaks in proceedings and the presence of a doctor would ensure that any trial would not pose a "concrete danger" to his life or constitute a serious health risk.
The fact that the main evidence against him is based on accounts by people who are now dead also means the trial would be less of a strain on Boere than if he had to see living witnesses face to face, the court added.
Boere admitted to the killings in Breda, Voorschoten and Wassenaar in a magazine interview last April, saying he was following the orders of his superiors -- and that he had had no trouble pulling the trigger.
"Yes, I got of rid of them," he told Focus magazine. "They told us they were backers of the partisans but we did not even believe them then ... Oh no, it was not difficult. You just had to bend a finger."
Boere fled in 1947 to Germany, where two years later he gave up his Dutch citizenship when he was sentenced to death by a special post-war tribunal in Amsterdam. The sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment.
Germany refused to extradite Boere in 1980, saying it was unable to determine if he was German or stateless.
In 2003, the Dutch justice minister asked that Boere serve his sentence in Germany -- an idea rejected four years later by a Cologne court which claimed that the 1949 sentence had violated basic norms for a fair trial.
The same court nevertheless agreed that Boere's crime should not go unpunished -- opening the way for the ultimately unsuccessful bid to try him in Germany.
A trial of Boere would be one of the last cases of its kind in Germany dealing with the crimes of the Nazi era.
Josef Scheungraber, 90, is currently on trial in Munich, charged with ordering the killings of 14 civilians in the Tuscan village of Falzano on June 26, 1944.
One other case pending is that of John Demjanjuk, 89, a Nazi death camp guard deported in May from the United States for allegedly herding over 29,000 Jews to their death. On Friday he was declared fit to stand trial.