A German court said Monday it was dropping the investigation into 17 former Nazi SS soldiers, eight of whom are still alive, for allegedly taking part in the wartime massacre of 560 citizens in an Italian village.
After a 10-year investigation, the court in the southwestern German city of Stuttgart cited insufficient evidence that the accused had personally taken part in the war time massacre that occurred in the Tuscan mountain village of Sant'Anna di Stazzema.
"The fact that a person belonged to a Waffen-SS unit that was deployed in Sant'Anna di Stazzema cannot replace the proof needed that an individual is guilty," the court ruled, according to AFP.
"In fact, for every individual person accused, it must be established that -- and in what way -- he was involved in the massacre," added the court.
The court also ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the massacre was a premeditated and ordered slaughter of the civilian population, AFP reported.
The Stuttgart court said it was not possible to establish exactly how many died in the atrocity of August 12, 1944, but noted that Italian authorities put the figure at 560 people, including 107 children under the age of 14.
In 2005, an Italian court found that 10 members of the 16th SS "Reichsfuehrer" division, including a lieutenant and nine enlisted men, were personally responsible for the massacre and sentenced them to life in absentia.
Enrico Pieri, who was 10 when the raid occurred and witnessed his family being executed, called the verdict "a scandal".
"The shelving of this investigation offends the memory of Italians," said Democratic Party senator Andrea Marcucci, according to The Guardian.
"Some of those convicted have given interviews in which they admitted their role in the massacre," said Marco De Paolis, an Italian military magistrate.
"This was not a casual episode but a real massacre planned to the last detail," De Paolis said.