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Defendant’s failing health blocks trial of suspected Nazi war criminal

MOSCOW, Nov. 11 (JTA) – It appears that a suspected Nazi war criminal may never stand trial in Lithuania. The trial of Aleksandras Lileikis was suspended indefinitely this week because he is considered too ill to appear in court. The judge presiding over the case said a doctor’s report shows that the 91-year-old Lileikis is suffering from serious coronary disease and will be unable to leave the hospital for several weeks. The suspension marks the fifth time that the trial has been postponed this year. Lileikis, who during the war headed the Vilnius branch of the Lithuanian security police, is suspected of having handed scores of Jews over to Nazi death squads. Meanwhile, his lawyer has hinted that the trial may never resume. “One must reconcile oneself to the thought that nobody will manage to investigate” the crimes unless Lileikis recovers, Algirdas Matuiza told reporters in Vilnius. The court is now expected to assign another group of medical experts to gather data about the defendant’s health – and this is unlikely to happen until next year, according to Matuiza. Meanwhile, there have been indications that doctors who last month said Lileikis was fit to stand trial are revising their opinion. Henrikas Ulevicius, the man who headed the three-doctor panel that ruled Lileikis could appear in court, said last week he regretted this decision after Lileikis suffered an apparent heart attack in the courtroom. Last week, Lileikis made a brief appearance in court, where he proclaimed his innocence before being rushed off to the hospital. Lileikis, who immigrated to the United States in 1955, was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in May 1996. He returned to Lithuania a month later, proclaiming that he was innocent. If Lileikis’ trial is ever completed, it would be the first trial for Holocaust crimes in any of the three Baltic states since they gained their independence from the Soviet Union seven years ago.