(JTA) — A Lithuanian court has ruled that a swastika is part of the country’s historic legacy and not a Nazi symbol.
The May 19 ruling capped a three-month case involving four men who displayed swastikas at Klaipeda’s national independence parade.
“It is not a Nazi attribute, but a valuable symbol of the Baltic culture, an ancient sign of our ancestors, which had been stolen from them and treacherously used by other peoples,” one of the defense witnesses said, according to RT, Russia’s English news channel.
Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter and Israel director, called the decision “outrageous” and likely to lead to a tremendous increase in the use of Nazi symbols by Lithuania’s ultranationalists.
“Allowing the use of swastikas sends a clear message to those local residents harshly victimized by the Nazis that they are no longer welcome in their country of birth,” he said. Lithuanian judges are “again” showing bias in favor of Holocaust perpetrators rather than victims.
“We urge the Lithuanian courts to overturn this outrageous and contemptible decision as quickly as possible,” Zuroff said.
Swastikas previously have been displayed in Lithuania on May Day, and once in front of the presidential palace in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, according to news reports. Neither instance prompted police or legal action.