France Formally Asks Syria to Extradite Nazi Brunner

France has asked Syria for the extradition of Alois Brunner, one of the last major Nazi war criminals known to be alive.

The French ambassador to Syria, Alain Grenier, presented the formal request to the Syrian authorities in Damascus on Dec. 27, Nazihunter Serge Klarsfeld disclosed here Wednesday.

Syria has stubbornly denied for years any knowledge of Brunner’s whereabouts, contrary to all evidence, including an interview Brunner gave to a Chicago Tribune reporter in Damascus last year.

Now France is exerting the full force of its diplomatic weight to bring him to justice, Klarsfeld said.

The French extradition request is based on new documents Klarsfeld filed with the Ministry of Justice in 1987.

The new file charges Brunner with crimes against humanity, which according to French law, are not covered by the statute of limitations, as are war crimes.

Klarsfeld used a similar complaint to obtain the trial and 1986 conviction of Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon” who is now serving a life sentence in Lyon’s Saint Joseph prison.

Brunner, 76, one of Adolf Eichmann’s top aides, has been hiding out in Syria since the early 1950s.

A French court convicted him in absentia of war crimes in 1954 and sentenced him to death.

Brunner is held responsible for deporting over 100,000 Jews from Austria, Berlin, France and Greece to death camps in Eastern Europe.

West Germany asked Syria for Brunner’s extradition in 1984.

The Syrians claim that they know of no such person living in Syria.

But only last year, Brunner freely admitted to the Tribune reporter that he is the wanted Nazi.

Klarsfeld said that if Brunner is extradited, he could be tried in either France, West Germany or Greece, since he is wanted in all of those countries.

Klarsfeld said that the three countries, with Israel’s participation, could also set up an international court to try him.

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