Polyukhovich to Stand Trial for Six Deaths, Not Massacre

Ivan Polyukhovich, the first suspect charged under Australia’s amended war crimes statute, has been ordered to stand trial on two of six murder charges brought by the government.

But the alleged war criminal will not face prosecution for the mass murder of 850 Jews from the Ukrainian village of Serniki.

The ruling means that under Australia’s strict rules of evidence, a case exists against Polyukhovich, 76, for the murder of six individuals. He will be tried for knowing participation in the Nazi campaign of genocide.

The order, by Magistrate Kelvyn Prescott, followed the failure of Polyukhovich’s appeal against the charges and his efforts to get the war crimes law declared invalid.

The 28-month-long court procedure that has been ongoing in Australia is akin to a preliminary hearing in a U.S. criminal case, and is not the trial per se.

In Australia, before a trial is ordered, the court wants to see the prosection’s evidence, including the witnesses, who are subject to cross-examination.

Polyukhovich’s actual trial is expected to begin later this year. But the opening may depend on the health of elderly witnesses in the United States, Europe, Israel and Australia, who must repeat in court the testimony they gave at the lengthy committal hearings.

Jewish leaders have not commented on the outcome of the hearing process, noting that the case is now in the hands of the courts.

But privately they say they expect an “all or nothing” outcome. They are glad there was enough evidence presented to keep up the momentum of the war crimes process and its public support.

A second man charged with war crimes, Heinrich Wagner, 67, appeared briefly in court this week to hear charges that he murdered 20 people and participated in the deaths of 104 others in the Ukraine in 1942 and 1943.

Committal hearings of a third suspect, Mikolay Beresowsky, opened Tuesday in Adelaide.

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