SYDNEY, Australia (Jul. 30)
An Adelaide magistrate has dropped the charges against alleged war criminal Mikolay Berezowsky, saying there was “no case to answer.”
Berezowsky, 78, wept openly on hearing that the charges had been dropped. He later told reporters that he was “relieved at the outcome.”
He was charged with knowing involvement in the mass murder of the 102 Jewish villagers of the Ukrainian village of Gnivan between March and July of 1942.
The defense acknowledged that the government prosecutors had proven that Berezowsky was a leading member of the Schutzmannschaft, the local police recruited by the Nazis, which took part in the roundup of Jewish children and adults from the village before they were murdered. The defense also admitted that Berezowsky had “generally” collaborated with the Nazis and that he had escaped with them as they retreated.
The ruling by the magistrate, David Gurry, was based on the absence of eyewitness testimony that Berezowsky took part in the mass murder and on the possibility that Berezowsky was not in the village on the day of the massacre.
The magistrate had previously denied the request of war crimes prosecutors to take testimony in Ukraine from two elderly women who reportedly were eyewitnesses to the events.
The prosecution had argued that the two Ukrainian women, who are too ill to travel to Australia, were vital to the case against Berezowsky. But after several days of consideration, Gurry said in a written statement that it was “neither necessary nor expedient” to grant the application.
He said the trip to Ukraine would delay the hearing by at least six weeks and that because of the defendant’s poor health, he would not be able to come face-to-face with his accusers.
Although the result is a setback for the prosecuting unit, the director, Michael Rozenes, has the authority to refile the charges or to take the matter directly to the Supreme Court.