Nazi Suspect Returns to Australia

New York Times
January 7, 2000
By The Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- A Nazi war crimes suspect, thrown out of several countries on suspicion of participating in mass killings, arrived today back in his adopted home country, Australia.

Konrad Kalejs arrived on a Singapore Airlines flight in Melbourne's airport, where dozens of Jewish students gathered to protest what they said was the government's failure to do more to investigate the allegations against him.

He was helped through customs by airport officials, a spokeswoman said, and ushered away without passing through any public areas. But that did not deter protesters. ``We're here to prove to that he's not welcome here in Australia,'' said one demonstrator, Josh Gladwin.

Latvian-born Kalejs, 86, migrated to Australia after World War II and was granted citizenship in 1957. He had been living in Britain, but left Thursday after British authorities launched proceedings to deport him for alleged wartime atrocities.

He stands accused of belonging to the Arajs Kommando squad responsible for the death of 30,000 people, mostly Jews, in Latvia during World War II. He has denied the allegations and described his accusers as ``liars and storytellers.''

Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said today that Australian authorities, who previously investigated Kalejs but did not find enough evidence to charge him, would reopen their investigation only if new evidence came to light.

``You only can investigate evidence and if people believe there is additional evidence available either here or abroad, the statements can be put to the Australian Federal Police easily enough,'' Ruddock said.

Kalejs was deported from the United States in 1994 after U.S. Justice Department investigations found evidence against him, and returned to Australia after he was expelled from Canada in 1997.

He had been living in a retirement home in Leicestershire, central England, for the past six months.

Britain has come under fire for not bringing charges against Kalejs, and Australia has drawn criticism for letting him return.

British Home Secretary Jack Straw, the country's top law enforcement official, said Tuesday that police had advised him that there wasn't sufficient proof to detain Kalejs. Deportation efforts started because Kalejs' presence in Britain was ``not conducive to the public good,'' he said.

As Kalejs left London, a former secretary of Britain's parliamentary war crimes group, Lord Greville Janner, who now heads his nation's UK Holocaust educational trust, warned that Australia would be condemned internationally if it did not reopen a war crimes investigation of Kalejs.

``It will cause consternation, dismay and a very great deal of international anger,'' Janner said in London.

Latvia said Thursday that it started a criminal investigation of Kalejs and called for international help in gathering evidence. Latvian prosecutors would consider requesting Kalejs' extradition if the probe confirms his guilt, the statement said.


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