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Sunday, 9 January, 2000, 04:45 GMT
Nazi suspect denies murders

Protesters greet Mr Kalejs's arrival at Melbourne airport

By Red Harrison in Sydney

Alleged Nazi war criminal Konrad Kalejs has denied being involved in the killing of thousands of civilians in Latvia during World War II.

Mr Kalejs, an 86-year-old Australian citizen, left Britain last week and returned to Australia after UK authorities began proceedings to deport him for alleged atrocities.

Medically unfit

Through an interpreter Mr Kalejs said he had never, never witnessed the shooting of Jews or other civilians.

Those who accused him of having belonged to a Nazi execution squad which killed more than 30,000 people in Latvia were liars and storeytellers, he said.

Mr Kalejs says he was proud of having spent the war as an officer in the Latvian army fighting against the Russians until he was discharged, medically unfit.

Australian authorities investigated his past some years ago and Mr Kalejs says he now has a letter from the Prime Minister, John Howard, affirming that the Australian Government has no proof of his involvement in war crimes and therefore no reason to prosecute him.

Since his return, Jewish organisations and the Opposition Labor Party have denounced the government for allowing him back and are demanding new investigations into his wartime history.

Konrad Kalejs Konrad Kalejs arrives in Australia
When he first arrived back in Australia, Bob Greenwood, former head of Australia's Special Investigation Unit (SIU) into war criminals, told Channel Nine television he thought there was enough evidence to start another full investigation.

"The first thing the government should do is to ascertain for humanitarian reasons the state of Mr Kalejs' health, whether he is intellectually and physically capable of defending himself against the allegations," he said.

"If the answer is yes, the Latvian authorities should be contacted - and the Americans and the British who have ongoing cases of this sort - a proper investigation, so the Australian public can be informed as to whether or not charges should be laid against this man."

Australia's justice minister, Amanda Vanstone, has said the file on Mr Kalejs remains open and she has promised to pursue new evidence against him if and when it is presented.

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See also:
07 Jan 00 |  World
Nazi suspect goes into hiding
07 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Australian war-crimes debate resurfaces
06 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Straw defends 'Nazi' decision
03 Jan 00 |  UK
Konrad Kalejs: Target for Nazi hunters
06 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: The Baltics' wartime record
05 Jan 00 |  Talking Point
Should we pursue crimes of the past?
28 Dec 99 |  UK
Simon Wiesenthal: Nazi-hunter

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