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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 06:44 GMT 07:44 UK
Medical call in Gecas extradition
Antonas Gecas
Mr Gecas has denied the allegations against him
Nazi hunters have called on the Scottish Executive to appoint an independent medical expert to examine if a man accused of war crimes can be extradited to Lithuania.

A warrant was issued three weeks ago for the extradition of Antonas Gecas, 85, from Edinburgh, but it cannot be served because he has been recovering from two strokes.

Mr Gecas is accused of killing civilians, mostly Jews, while working in a WWII police battalion in Lithuania.

The Jerusalem-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre has accused the Scottish Executive of dragging its feet, because it has not ordered an independent medical assessment to be carried out.

War time picture
Mr Gecas was a police platoon commander
Mr Gecas, a Lithuanian running a guest house in the Newington district of Edinburgh, is in hospital having suffered two strokes.

It means police have not been able to serve him with the warrant for his extradition.

The executive said it was relying on medical reports about Mr Gecas' condition.

But the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which first raised allegations about wartime atrocities carried out by Mr Gecas, called for an explanation of why an independent medical examination has not been carried out.

Objectively assess

Dr Efraim Zuroff, who is in charge of the centre's investigation into the Gecas case, said: "We believe that it is imperative for the Scottish judiciary to immediately appoint an expert medical examiner to objectively assess the current state of Mr Gecas' health.

"Extensive experience with such cases has shown that suspected Nazi war criminals often make every effort to appear as ill as possible in order to avoid prosecution and punishment and therefore every precaution must be taken to carefully determine Mr Gecas' condition.

"In addition, we urge you to ensure that even if he cannot be extradited to Lithuania at the present time, periodical examinations will be conducted so that if his health subsequently improves, he can be sent to Lithuania to stand trial."

A spokesman for the executive said the warrant for Mr Gecas's arrest remains with Lothian and Borders Police.


Extensive experience with such cases has shown that suspected Nazi war criminals often make every effort to appear as ill as possible in order to avoid prosecution and punishment and therefore every precaution must be taken to carefully determine Mr Gecas's condition.

Dr Efraim Zuroff
The pensioner is understood to be receiving treatment at Liberton Hospital in the south of Edinburgh after suffering a stroke in May.

The spokesman added: "The process now depends on medical rather than ministerial judgments and clearly we want to ensure that any medical reports are authoritative and objective."

In February, a district court in Vilnius, Lithuania, granted a warrant for the arrest of Mr Gecas.

Mr Gecas served as a platoon commander in a police battalion which fought with the Germans after they invaded Lithuania.

He moved to Scotland in 1947.

A former National Coal Board engineer, he has repeatedly denied committing war crimes.

He lost a libel action in 1992 against Scottish Television after it alleged that he had led atrocities.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Reevel Alderson reports
"Mr Gecas is in Liberton Hospital receiving treatment"
See also:

27 Jul 01 | Scotland
Gecas arrest warrant issued
15 Aug 01 | Scotland
War crimes suspect suffers stroke
02 May 01 | Scotland
Row over Gecas extradition delay
10 Apr 01 | Scotland
War crimes suspect was 'protected'
29 Mar 01 | Scotland
Lithuania pursues war crimes suspect
04 Mar 01 | Scotland
Gecas protests his innocence
19 Feb 01 | Scotland
Legal battle looms in Gecas case
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