LOS ANGELES (Nov. 15)
Andrija Artukovic, the most notorious Nazi war criminal living in the United States, was arrested yesterday in Orange County by Federal authorities acting on a new request for extradition by the government of Yugoslavia.
Bail was denied for the 84-year-old resident of Seal Beach, south of Los Angeles, at a hearing last night in a crowded prison ward. Federal judge Ralph Geffan said, “These alleged offenses are the most heinous of any charges against any human being.” He is being held at the County-University of Southern California Medical Center.
Artukovic, an alien resident of California for over 30 years, was the Minister of Interior and Justice in the Nazi puppet state of Croatia during World War II. He was also in charge of the notorious Jacenovac concentration camp and is responsible for the murders of 700,000 Serbs, 40,000 gypsies and 25,000 Jews in Croatia.
Until the latest development, Artukovic has successfully evaded all legal moves against him since 1951. Neil Sher, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, who was here in connection with the Artukovic case, said, “We will pursue this case vigorously with the hope that Artukovic will be sent back to Yugoslavia as soon as possible.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles welcomed the arrest of Artukovic. Said Center Dean Marvin Hier, “Artukovic’s arrest is significant, not only because it brings this notorious murderers’s day of reckoning closer, but it could have historic significance if it signals the Reagan Administration’s decision to apply extradition — not only denaturalization — proceedings against the thousands of Nazi war criminals in our midst.”
SURVIVOR EXPRESSES RELIEF
Leo Handel of Los Angeles, a former resident of Croatia whose family perished there during the Holocaust and who is currently engaged in a class action lawsuit brought against Artukovic in U.S. Federal Court by the Wiesenthal Center, expressed his relief, despite the delay. “Justice for my family and for the hundreds of thousands of other innocent victims is now possible, Handel said.
The suit, currently pending in federal court in Los Angeles, seeks civil damages from Artukovic for his role during World War II. Handel indicated that he and the other survivors involved with the suit will proceed with it “so long as Artukovic remains in America.”