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The BBC's Jon Silverman
"Britain has twice before declined to put on trial members of the Arajs Kommando"
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Monday, 3 January, 2000, 05:12 GMT
Australia to accept Nazi suspect

Mr Kalejs is living at a Leicestershire nursing home

Australia says an alleged war criminal staying in a British old people's home is free to return.

Konrad Kalejs - who has Australian citizenship - would be allowed back - and would be dealt with as innocent until proven guilty, said Australian Justice Minister Amanda Vanstone.

But UK Home Secretary Jack Straw has been urged to stop Mr Kalejs fleeing the UK.

Mr Kalejs, originally from Latvia, is accused of being part of a paramilitary police force which collaborated with the Nazis' Jewish genocide in Latvia in World War II.

He has said he plans to leave Britain for Australia as soon as possible - and certainly before his visa runs out later this week.

Konrad Kalejs Konrad Kalejs was deported from the US
But Mr Straw is under pressure from campaigners to arrest the 86-year-old under the 1991 War Crimes Act.

Police are holding urgent inquiries, and are expected to interview Mr Kalejs within the next 48 hours.

They would then recommend whether he should face charges over crimes allegedly committed in Latvia during World War II.

Mr Straw would only have the power to hold Mr Kalejs in the UK if an arrest warrant had been issued.

'Opportunity for justice'

Mr Kalejs denies having been a member of the notorious Arajs Kommando unit, which actively participated in the mass murder of at least 30,000 civilians, primarily Jews.

But on Monday, one holocaust survivor told The Times newspaper how she hid in a Latvian flat where Mr Kalejs sat listening to colleagues' drunken boasts about killing Jews.

Police are also studying other witness statements, including one from a former Kommando member who said Mr Kalejs had ordered his platoon to stand guard while 20 to 30 gypsies were shot at a camp in June 1943.

Mr Kalejs is currently living in the luxury Catthorpe Manor retirement home in Leicestershire.

Britain should view this as an opportunity to achieve justice rather then as a problem that was thrust in their lap
Simon Wiesenthal Centre
Police were alerted to his presence by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, which hunts down perpetrators of the holocaust.

The centre has urged Britain to try Mr Kalejs for war crimes unless Latvia makes an extradition request.

"Britain should view this as an opportunity to achieve justice rather then as a problem that was thrust in their lap," said director Efraim Zuroff.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes called on the authorities not to be allow Mr Kalejs to "slip through the net".

"Allowing this man to leave Britain without the chance of facing the most serious charges against him would be an international tragedy and scandal," he said.

I am leaving this country as soon as I can. I have learned my lesson. The police cannot hold me
Konrad Kalejs
Campaigners say an extradition request is unlikely, as the Latvian government has little enthusiasm for pursuing Nazi collaborators.

Mr Kalejs has called his accusers "liars and story-tellers" and said: "I am leaving this country as soon as I can. I have learned my lesson. The police cannot hold me."

Mr Kalejs, who has already been deported from the US and Canada over the allegations, believes he will be safe in Australia.

The country has previously ruled that there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.

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See also:
29 Dec 99 |  UK
Police examine 'Nazi' war record
28 Dec 99 |  UK
Simon Wiesenthal: Nazi-hunter
01 Apr 99 |  UK
Life for war criminal
13 Oct 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Trial and retribution
02 Jan 00 |  UK
Nazi suspect: I'm leaving UK

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