Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Praises Lithuanian War Crimes Indictment

WASHINGTON -- The United States has hailed Lithuania's decision to prosecute accused Nazi war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis, who headed that Baltic nation's security police during the World War II German occupation.

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said Monday that the Lithuanian decision on Friday marked the first prosecution for World War II crimes in any of the successor states to the former Soviet Union.

Lithuania's Jewish community, which once numbered over 200,000, was almost entirely destroyed during World War II. The Lithuanians charged Lileikis with genocide, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Lileikis, 90, who had lived in Norwood, Massachusetts, fled to Lithuania in 1996 after a U.S. District Court stripped him of U.S. citizenship in a prosecution brought by the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which hunts war criminals in the United States.

"We applaud the Lithuanian General Procuracy's landmark decision to prosecute Lileikis," Reno said in a statement. "It is vital that the nations of the world leave no stone unturned in pursuing justice on behalf of the millions of victims of Nazi genocide."

The United States, Israel and world Jewish groups had mounted a campaign to persuade the Lithuanians to bring the prosecution.

U.S. Vice President Al Gore raised the issue with Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas at a White House meeting last April, said an administration official who requested anonymity. White House officials advised the Lithuanians that if they wanted to be considered seriously for NATO membership, they needed to adopt the attitude of Western nations toward accused Nazi war criminals, the official said.

The Justice Department said Lithuanian prosecutors submitted the genocide charges to a district court and hearings could begin in four to six weeks. U.S. officials described that step as similar to indictment in the United States.

The Lithuanian General Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday said Lileikis' lawyer is trying to buy time for his client by filing multiple court requests.

Lileikis' lawyer, Algirdas Matuiza, has filed requests including one to interview a witness who lives in the United States, but Kazimieras Kovarskas, the head of the prosecutor's special investigations division, said some of the requests are impossible to carry out.

"Matuiza simply is doing his job and trying to win some time, but this already has taken far too long," Kovarskas said.

A number of other Lithuanians may also lose U.S. citizenship and are likely to be tried for World War II crimes.

Last Nov. 20, the Baltic News Service reported that Lileikis' wartime deputy, Kazys Gimzauskas, had been indicted in Lithuania for the arrest, imprisonment and deportation to concentration camps of Lithuanian Jews. However, Eli Rosenbaum, head of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, said that report was premature.

U.S. officials still hope Gimzauskas will be indicted too, Rosenbaum said Monday. Gimzauskas fled to Lithuania from his home in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1993; he too was stripped of his naturalized U.S. citizenship.

Lileikis lost his naturalized U.S. citizenship after prosecutors presented Nazi documents and other evidence showing he had signed orders consigning Jewish men, women and children to death

The Justice Department has also stripped U.S. citizenship from Algimantas Dailide, a former Saugumas officer living in the Cleveland area, and is seeking to do the same to Adolph Milius, another former Saugumas officer who now resides in Lithuania as a U.S. citizen.