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Deportation of Karl Linnas

April 01, 1987

We applaud your editorial dealing with the case of Estonian national Karl Linnas convicted in absentia by a Soviet court in 1962 for allegedly running a prison camp in Tartu during World War II.

Americans must not accept the deportation of Linnas to the Soviet Union as the final solution. Because of the serious nature of the belated pursuit and prosecution of alleged Nazi war criminals, the United States not only has a duty to use the highest standards of justice in these cases but also must exercise great care not to strengthen or give credibility to the totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries.

Because of its role as willing partner with Nazi Germany (1939-1941), its continuing human, religious, and national rights abuses, and systematic anti-Semitism, the U.S.S.R. desecrates the memory of the Holocaust and is the least acceptable nation to serve the cause of justice.

Deportation to the Soviet Union of any former refugee from Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania would constitute an explicit violation of the longstanding U.S. policy of non-recognition of the forcible and illegal seizure of the Baltic nations by the U.S.S.R. in June, 1940.

The extension of moral and legal equivalency to the Soviet Union in U.S. courts establishes a dangerous precedent with long-term consequences: lowering of high standards of democratic jurisprudence to meet those of a totalitarian system; undermining of U.S. substantive, moral, and ethical support for human and religious rights movements.

By deporting Linnas, the United States will ratify a conviction and death sentence in absentia at a Soviet show trial.

We reiterate our support for the only acceptable solution, namely initiation of criminal trials of alleged war criminals in the United States. (The Canadian government has proposed a similar course of action.) A federal war crimes statute would provide for criminal proceedings with criminal evidentiary standards. Both the U.S. piracy statute and the "universality" principle have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both the ethnic and Jewish communities want the same end: justice. Under current civil proceedings (Holtzman Amendment), neither communities are satisfied. Deportation is not incarceration. There is no better solution to this dilemma than immediate imposition of criminal war crimes proceedings in the United States.


Mission Viejo

Mazeika is president of the Coalition for Constitutional Justice and Security.

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