Lithuania delays action on law to facilitate war criminal trial

MOSCOW, Oct. 30 (JTA) – Lithuania’s Parliament has delayed action on an amendment that would facilitate the prosecution of alleged World War II criminals. The move has the biggest impact on the unfinished case of Aleksandras Lileikis, 90, who is accused of having handed Jews over to death squads in Vilnius during World War II when he was head of the Nazi-sponsored Lithuanian security police, known as the Saugumas, from 1941 to 1944. Legal proceedings against Lileikis were postponed in July after medical experts determined that he was not fit to stand trial. Under Lithuanian law, suspects cannot be brought to trial if medical experts rule that they are too ill. An amendment was introduced last month to change that law. Jewish activists fear that the Parliament may never vote on the measure. “They are waiting for Lileikis to die,” said Simonas Davidavicius, chairman of the Jewish community of Kaunas, the Baltic nation’s second largest city. During a discussion of the measure, some Parliament members said passing the amendment would be tantamount to caving into pressure from Jewish groups. Lileikis, who immigrated to the United States in 1955,
was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in May. He returned to Lithuania a month later, proclaiming that he was innocent. He is one of several Lithuanians targeted by Nazi hunters for their alleged role in the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of 94 percent of Lithuania’s prewar Jewish community of 240,000. In a separate development, the Lithuanian Parliament two weeks ago began debating amendments to legislation that would criminalize public behavior aimed at promoting racial hatred. It was not clear whether the legislation would be passed, and if so, whether it would actively be implemented. The debate took place in mid-October, at about the same time that the Assembly of Jewish Communities of the Baltic States – a group known as the Baltic Knesset – issued a statement during its three-day annual session calling on regional authorities and world Jewish organizations to pay more attention to growing anti-Semitism in the Baltics. Much of the assembly’s discussion focused on Lithuania.

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