NEW YORK (Jan. 10)
An appeals court in San Francisco ruled yesterday that there exists “insufficient evidence” to support the Justice Department’s contention that alleged Nazi war criminal Edgars Laipenieks was personally responsible for the deaths of 200 prisoners at the central prison in Riga during World War II.
The Department’s Office of Special Investigations filed a deportation complaint against him in June, 1981. An official of the Immigration and Naturalization Service said, after the ruling was handed down, that he expected the Justice Department to pursue the case to the Supreme Court.
Judge Thomas Tang, writing on behalf of the majority opinion of the three-member panel, stated:
“In sum, we find insufficient evidence to support … determination that the government established by clear, convincing and unequivocal evidence that Laipenieks assisted or participated in the persecution of persons because of their political beliefs.”
He added: “While we certainly do not condone the treatment that prisoners apparently received at the (Riga) prison, we do not find Laipenieks’ admission sufficient to support deportability.”
COURT DECISION ASSAILED
The Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles, immediately assailed the court’s decision. Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Center, said, “This is a classic example that the only winners of the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United and the United States are Nazi war criminals. Laipenieks gained entry into this country as a CIA informer and anti-Communist when the U.S. was willing to over look his previous crimes.”
The 71-year-old former Latvian police official, born in the Latvian town of Rucava, gained entry to the U.S. in March, 1960. He had previously been in Chile, presumably since the end of World War II. In Chile, he was a track coach for the team that entered the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games. He also coached the Mexican track team for the 1964 Olympics.
Laipenieks claimed to have joined the Nazis after the Russians killed his parents and father-in-law. Between 1941 and 1943, he is reported to have worked for the Latvian Security Police, an organization assigned to duty at the Riga prison. He was charged by surviving witnesses who still live in Latvia with participating in the beating and killings of unarmed inmates, including Jewish prisoners.
Laipenieks currently lives in La Jolla, California, where he is employed as a security guard at a construction site; He admitted in past testimony that he had been employed by the CIA in the 1960’s in efforts to get visiting Soviet athletes to defect. It is unclear when or if his employment for the CIA was terminated.