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Latvian War Crimes Suspect to Leave Britain, Return to Australia

January 4, 2000
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A Latvian war crimes suspect allegedly involved in the deaths of up to 30,000 Jews during World War II is expected to leave Britain voluntarily after the British government announced that he would be deported.

Konrad Kalejs, who has previously been deported from the United States and Canada, is likely to head for Australia, where he acquired citizenship after posing as a refugee immediately after the war.

But the 86-year-old Kalejs is unlikely to face charges in Australia, where judicial officials have already determined there is insufficient evidence against him.

Kalejs, who was identified last month as living in a retirement home in central England, allegedly served as an officer in Latvia’s notorious Arajs Kommando unit.

The militia is held directly responsible for the deaths of some 100,000 civilians, including 30,000 Jews, between 1941 and 1943.

Efraim Zuroff, head of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the JTA he regards the British decision not to try Kalejs as a “missed opportunity for justice.”

Zuroff had earlier called on the Latvian government to seek his extradition, noting that Latvia had not previously tried war crimes suspects since it gained its independence, while it had indicted nine Communists for alleged Soviet-era crimes.

The trial of Kalejs in Latvia, he said, would, in addition to its purely judicial significance, have important moral and educational dimensions.

Zuroff appealed to Home Secretary Jack Straw to change his mind and indict Kalejs in Britain.

“I believe that Britain has a historic obligation to help prosecute Kalejs,” he said. “His presence should be viewed as an opportunity to bring one of the Holocaust’s terrible criminals to trial and strike a blow for justice.”

Kalejs has described his accusers as “liars and storytellers” and insists that he had been a student throughout the war.

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