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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 11:10 GMT
Sawoniuk loses war crimes appeal

Anthony Sawoniuk Sawoniuk's trial judge said he should die in prison


The war criminal Anthony Sawoniuk has lost his appeal against his conviction for killing Jews during World War II.



I never killed nobody in my life. I am not a monster. I am an ordinary, working class, poor man."
Sawoniuk, during trial
Sawoniuk, 78, was found guilty last April of murdering Jewish families when he worked for the Nazis in Belarus. The former British Rail ticket collector is serving two life sentences.

Three judges in London ruled his murder convictions safe, and he has been sent back to Gartree Prison in Leicester to serve his sentence.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, said: "In our judgment the conclusion reached by the judge, despite the unprecedented passage of time since 1942, was correct."

He said the court had concluded that the judge was "right" to leave the two murder counts to the jury.

The evidence presented to the trial, although relating to evidence 57 years ago, was based on eye-witnesses accounts, he said.

He added that the jury had the advantage of seeing first-hand evidence of what had happened, having travelled to the scene of the massacres during the trial. The conviction was sound, he concluded.


Crime scene Jurors visited the crime scene in Belarus
Lord Bingham, sitting with Mr Justice Tucker and Mrs Justice Hallett, had heard eight grounds of appeal during a recent three-day hearing.

Sawoniuk, who had been based in south east London, was present in the dock as the decision was announced. He had protested that his Old Bailey trial last April was an "abuse of the process of the court".

The frail and partially deaf war criminal denied murdering Jews in his hometown of Domachevo, Belarus, 57 years ago while serving in a local German-controlled police force.

But he was found guilty on both murder charges he faced at the end of the UK's first full war crimes trial.

The jury, reduced to 11 through illness, found him guilty unanimously on the first charge and by an 10-1 majority on the second.

'Abuse of process'

Sawoniuk's counsel, William Clegg QC, had told the appeal judges that the trial judge, Mr Justice Potts, "erred in law" on a number of issues.

He said the judge erred in law in failing to stay the two murder counts on the ground "that the continued prosecution of the appellant amounted to an abuse of the process of the court".

Mr Clegg said there had been a "delay that was unprecedented in the history of our criminal courts of 50-something years between offence and trial".

"We submit that no fair trial is possible after 57 years," he said.

He is the only person to have faced a full trial after an inquiry by the war crimes investigation unit set up as a result of the War Crimes Act of 1991.

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See also:
27 Jan 00 |  UK
War crimes man awaits verdict
05 Apr 99 |  UK
Sawoniuk - a hidden life exposed
01 Apr 99 |  UK
Life for war criminal
24 Jun 99 |  UK
Sawoniuk sentencing explained
25 Jan 00 |  UK
Sawoniuk appeals against war crimes conviction
01 Apr 99 |  UK
War crimes trial could be first and last
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