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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Latvia Prepared to Indict Alleged Nazi War Criminal

RIGA, Latvia -- Latvian prosecutors are ready to charge suspected Nazi war criminal Konrads Kalejs with genocide, the Baltic News Service reported Saturday. Formal charges were expected by early July.

Kelejs, 86, would be the first alleged Nazi to face such a trial since this ex-Soviet republic won independence in 1991.

Human rights groups claim Kalejs f who now lives in Australia after being deported from the United States, Canada and Britain f was an officer in the Arajs Kommando, a Nazi-sponsored death squad responsible for the murder of some 30,000 people, mostly Latvian Jews, during World War II.

Kalejs denies the charges.

Chief prosecutor Rudita Abolina said the government uncovered evidence that Kalejs was a chief guard at a Nazi-run concentration camp in Salispils, about 40 kilometers from the capital Riga, BNS reported.

Jews, Russian prisoners of war, and others deemed undesirable were imprisoned in Salispils during the war. Many died of malnutrition or were executed.

Some 80,000 Jews were murdered during the 1941-44 Nazi occupation of Latvia. Latvians as well as Germans took part in the killings.

Under international pressure to bring suspected Nazis to trial, Latvian prosecutors launched a criminal investigation against Kalejs earlier this year.

Latvia and Australia reached agreement in April on a new extradition treaty that was expected to enter into force by the end of the year.

BNS reported that Latvian prosecutors will ask Australia to extradite Kalejs once he is formally charged.

Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, then by Germany from 1941-44. The Red Army returned in 1945 and stayed until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

After winning independence, Latvia vowed to prosecute alleged agents of Nazi- and Soviet-era crimes. But while nearly a dozen have been indicted or convicted for Stalinist-era crimes, no alleged Nazis have been tried.

The Soviet Union executed several hundred alleged Nazi war criminals in Latvia immediately after World War II.