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The BBC's Dominic Hughes
"Mr Kalejs has always denied involvement in wartime atrocities"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
Nazi suspect can be extradited
Konrad Kalejs and his legal team at the Melbourne court
Kalejs has attended court in a wheelchair
An Australian court has ruled that 87-year-old Konrad Kalejs can be extradited to Latvia where he is wanted on charges of war crimes and genocide.


I am satisfied that Konrad Alfreds Kalejs is eligible for surrender to the Republic of Latvia in relation to the offences for which extradition is sought

Melbourne magistrate Lisa Hannan

The charges against Mr Kalejs relate to his role as a commander at the Salapils labour camp near Riga in 1942-43.

His lawyers immediately issued a statement saying they were appealing against what they called the "inhumane and unjust" ruling.

The decision has been welcomed by both officials and Jewish groups in Latvia.

"The Australian court ruling is a positive thing as it should provide the opportunity to prosecute and investigate all circumstances linked to charges brought against Konrads Kalejs," Prosecutor General Janis Maizitis was quoted as saying.

Granted bail

Earlier, Mr Kalejs was granted bail and released after two hours in custody.

Konrad Kalejs
Kalejs would be the first person prosecuted for Nazi war crimes in Latvia
He was ordered to remain at a Latvian nursing home in Melbourne, surrender his passport and not travel to any points from which he might leave Australia.

His lawyers said their client had dementia and prostate cancer, was blind and nearly deaf, and could not follow proceedings nor remember the past.

"It is therefore impossible for him to get a fair trial," the statement said.

But Grigory Krupnikov, chairman of the Riga Jewish Community, said claims by Mr Kalejs' lawyers that he was too sick to stand trial should not be considered during his appeal.

"Age and health should not be a reason not to stand trial when we're talking about genocide and war crimes," he said.

Mr Kalejs fled Britain last year to avoid deportation to Latvia.

He had earlier been deported from Canada and the United States for lying about his wartime past.

Wheelchair

Mr Kalejs, who became an Australian citizen in 1957, denies any involvement in the alleged crimes.

He attended Tuesday's hearing at a Melbourne court in a wheelchair, accompanied by a nurse, but his wife, who had been present at earlier hearings, was not with him.

Kalejs' journey
1950: Arrives in Australia
1957: Australian citizenship
1994: Deported from US
1997: Forced from Canada
2000: Flees Britain
2001: Extradited to Latvia?

Prosecutors say that while Mr Kalejs was at the Salapils camp, thousands of Jews and other prisoners were shot, tortured and humiliated.

His defence team had argued that the Latvian and Australian authorities have not followed the correct procedures for extradition.

The Melbourne magistrate was not required to judge Mr Kalejs' guilt or innocence, but only assess whether his alleged actions would constitute crimes under Australian law at the time the extradition request was received last December.

Mr Kalejs arrived in Australia at the start of 2000, after being tracked down to the Catthorpe Manor retirement home in Leicestershire by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, which hunts perpetrators of the Holocaust.

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See also:

14 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Nazi suspect battles extradition
25 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Nazi suspect extradition hearing delayed
06 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Straw defends 'Nazi' decision
07 Jan 00 | World
Nazi suspect goes into hiding
07 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Australian war-crimes debate resurfaces
29 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Nazi suspect's global journey
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