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Thursday, June 18, 1998 Published at 20:48 GMT 21:48 UK

World: Europe

Croatian ex-Nazi home for trial

Dinko Sakic refuses comment to reporters as he leaves Argentina

A man accused of war crimes during the Second World War is back in his native Croatia after being extradited from Argentina.

Dinko Sakic, who is 76, was commander of the Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia in the early 1940s, and is accused of over-seeing the murder of thousands of Jews, Serbs and gypsies.

Newspapers in Zagreb say Mr Sakic may face investigating judges as early as Friday.

His lawyer said he was calm, and had "always wanted to go to Croatia to clear things up".

[ image: Pictures taken at Jasenovac during the war]
Pictures taken at Jasenovac during the war
In a decree ordering Mr Sakic's extradition, President Carlos Menem said there was "sufficient evidence to suspect that (he) committed crimes against humanity."

Dinko Salkic has lived in Argentina since 1947, one of many accused war criminals who found refuge there after World War II. Officials have created a special investigating office to track down other war criminals who may still be hiding out there.

Former SS Captain Erich Priebke was arrested in Argentina in 1995 and extradited to Italy, where he was sentenced earlier this year to life in prison for his part in the 1944 massacre at Italy's Ardeatine Caves.

Mr Sakic was located by a television documentary team in April. He denied any knowledge of atrocities committed at the Jasenovac concentration camp, which he described as a work camp.

[ image:  ]

But it is generally accepted that tens of thousands of people - mainly Serbs, Jews and gypsies - were killed, although the exact number of victims is still the subject of controversy.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the Nazi-hunting organisation, puts the figure at half a million, while Croatian scholars insist it was closer to 80,000.

The Sakic trial will highlight Croatia's ambiguous role in World War II. It was ruled by the Nazi-backed Ustashe, but thousands of its citizens fought in anti-fascist partisan forces.

Correspondents say the hearings are likely re-open disputes between Serb and Croat historians over what really happened in Yugoslavia during the war.

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11 Apr 98 | Europe
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