Verdicts on Two War Criminal Cases

A federal district court ruled here last week that Karl Linnas may be deported to his native Estonia for war crimes committed there during World War II. But a Cincinnati immigration court judge delivered an opposite verdict in the case of alleged war criminal Leonid Petkiewytsch whom the Justice Department wants to deport to Poland.

Linnas, a 67-year-old Long Island resident, was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in 1981 and ordered deported in 1983 after lengthy hearings determined that he had been commandant of the Tartu concentration camp in Estonia and was responsible for the deaths of at least 12,000 inmates, including thousands of Jews.

Pietkiewytsch, 63, a resident of Finneytown, Ohio, was charged by the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) with the persecution of inmates of the Kiel-Hasse labor camp in Germany during the war in collaboration with the Nazi authorities and with concealing the fact that he was arrested by the British for war crimes, when he entered the U.S. in 1955.

Immigration Judge O. John Brahos ruled, however, that the government showed insufficient evidence that Petkiewytsch acted voluntarily rather than under duress and that his detention by the British was not material to the issuance of a U.S. visa. The OSI is expected to appeal.

But Linnas’ fight against deportation is apparently over. The U.S. Supreme Court twice declined to hear his appeals. The ruling by the federal district court Wednesday was the second time since last March that a federal court found that deportation of Linnas was justified.

He was sentenced in absentia in the Soviet Union in 1962 for war crimes committed in Estonia which is now Soviet territory. His appeals argued that evidence obtained from the Soviet Union was false and that deportation would mean certain death.

But U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani argued that the evidence supplied by the Soviet authorities only corroborated other evidence presented at the hearings. Although Attorney General Edwin Meese delayed signing the deportation order while the case was under “review,” the Justice Department is now expected to act quickly to send Linnas back to Estonia.

The case has stirred emotions among Jews, including Holocaust survivors who urged deportation and East European anti-Communist groups which supported Linnas’ appeals.

In Ohio, meanwhile, survivors of the Kiel-Hesse labor camp expressed bitter disappointment over Judge Brahos’ decision and hoped that appeals against it will be successful.

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