Justice Department Official Says Decision to Bar Waldheim from the U.S. Was Important ‘symbolic Gest
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Justice Department Official Says Decision to Bar Waldheim from the U.S. Was Important ‘symbolic Gest

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The Reagan Administration’s decision to bar Austrian President Kurt Waldheim from the United States was an important “symbolic gesture,” according to a senior Justice Department official.

“It is a declaration to the world that this nation is and will be inhospitable to persons who have acted in the way Mr. Waldheim appears to have done during the war, namely, participating in atrocities against Jews and other groups in southeastern Europe,” Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns told the legal division of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in Los Angeles May 14.

The action by the Justice and State departments bars Waldheim as a person, but not in his capacity as president. But it serves an educational purpose, Burns explained.

“It states that racial hatred and violence–which are inextricable–are ugly and wrong; and that we have to make a clean break with it,” he said.


In his speech, a copy of which was made available Tuesday by the ADL office here, Burns also defended the deportation of Karl Linnas to the Soviet Union for his participation in the murder of thousands in the Tartu concentration camp in his native Estonia, and pledged to continue the Justice Department’s efforts against hate groups in the United States.

On the Linnas case, Burns noted that Linnas did not contest the evidence against him, but relied on “a plea for decency and compassion” because of the death sentence imposed on him by the USSR in absentia.

He stressed that deportation is not extradition, which is made at the request of a foreign government. “Deportation involves no recognition of the criminal justice system of the country to which the person is deported,” he said.

Burns denied that the Justice Department had sought to provide a last-minute haven for Linnas in Panama to prevent his being sent to the Soviet Union.

He said Linnas’ lawyer told the Department that Panama might accept him, and this was investigated because all deported Nazi war criminals are given the opportunity to find a country that will take them.

“I asked the State Department to see whether this offer was valid,” Burns said. “It was not. And in any event, it was not something our department had sought out. Upon learning that there was no ‘Panama offer,’ we proceeded according to law.”

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